“All gave some…Some gave all.”
Rather than talk about myself today, I decided to use this platform to voice my opinion about another issue – our men and women serving and dying in the military. Not sure what possessed me to go this route, but woke up this morning with an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards those who protect our liberties and freedoms.
It’s easy for everyone, myself included, to grow complacent and forget all that is done for us on a daily basis by the brave men and women who voluntarily choose to serve. If there is a more noble calling, feel free to let me know and I will be sure to let you know how sorely mistaken you are.
When I was a junior in high school I began the application process to the United States Military Academy. My dream as a teenager was to attend West Point. Applying to the Academy consisted of a formal application (similar to that of a regular college application), a Physical Aptitude Examination (PAE), a thorough medical examination and letters of recommendation from a United States Senator and Representative. I had the grades, received stellar recommendations from former Senators John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum, as well as US Representative Eric Fingerhut, and performed exceptionally well on the PAE. In fact, I set a record in one of the events (standing broad jump) for Northeast Ohio in 1993. I also managed to bang out 22 pull-ups (which was 3rd highest in Cuyahoga County).
As a result, I was one of the 1,800 individuals (out of more than 10,000 applicants) to receive an Appointment to West Point. My Appointment was contingent upon passing by medical examination. This should have been a piece of cake, considering I was a full-time athlete with less than 8% body fat who wasn’t happy unless I was breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, I had asthma at the time, and once this was discovered my Appointment was rescinded. This was at the time of the first Gulf War, and the military was beginning to realize how damaging respiratory issues could be to a soldier. Despite numerous appeals and personal phone calls from the Senators to the Captain in charge of admissions, I was denied entry.
I was devastated by the Army’s decision, especially since my asthma was under control and not a problem. I eventually attended Lehigh University and was denied entry into their ROTC program as well. I ultimately ended up taking a few ROTC classes anyway (as a civilian) for my personal satisfaction. In the end, I told myself there was a reason for the setback and it was all part of God’s plan. However, my disdain towards the USMA selection committee never dampened my extreme gratitude towards those who did make the commitment to serve.
Last year while participating in an SCI study at the VA hospital in Cleveland, I was constantly surrounded by individuals who paid a steep price for their service. Missing limbs, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and posttraumatic stress disorder were just a few of the reminders of war that were constantly present in the halls of the hospital. There were times when I felt ashamed and embarrassed to be involved in the study since I was not a veteran. Oftentimes, others would look at me and offer a slight nod of their head as if to thank me for my sacrifice. I would just smile and lower my head not sure what there was to say. However, I have always known what to say any time I cross paths with a veteran in public. Whether at a shopping mall, a movie theater, church or even a nursing home, I always went up to veterans and thanked them for their service. I learned to do this while growing up by watching my father, a former Army grunt, thank countless men and women for their service.
If you haven’t thanked a veteran lately, ask yourself why not. It doesn’t have to be Veterans Day to appreciate these individuals. In fact it’s a travesty that only two days (including Armed Forces Day) are set aside for this great country to show its appreciation to its former and current military personnel.
To all those reading this who have served, are currently serving or lost a loved one as a result of serving, Thank You. I am extremely appreciative of the sacrifice you made.