At age 17, I had big decisions to make. Too scared to go to college, determined not to stay at home, I enlisted in the United States Navy. Three months after graduation, I began my career as a Sailor. Six Septembers later, I was teaching a room full of new sailors how to read electronic schematics. The day took a historic turn when we received the news of the Twin Towers. As the faces of the 18 to 24 year old men and women looked to me for an explanation, I wondered how many of them joined because they had been too scared to go to college.
The best explanation I could give them was that this was the reason they were here – to keep our country safe in times of peace and defend it in times of attack. We would not cut the training day early to ponder the recent events, but work harder to make sure we were even better prepared for the situation at hand.
Over the following months, more new sailors sat for the same instruction. This group had joined because of Sept. 11. They had lined up first for the Red Cross to donate to the blood banks and then at the recruiter’s office to offer their service. Their country had a call, and these brave men and women answered it.
Three Septembers later, I was in my fourth month at sea. I was stationed on the USS John F. Kennedy in the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had missed birthdays, the first day of school, and my wedding anniversary. I would soon add Thanksgiving and other events to the list. And as much as I missed my family, I knew I was where I was needed. While I was excited to come home, and made the decision with my family to forgo reenlistment, my years in service are treasured.
I know this writing comes in honor of Memorial Day and I am thrilled to write it. However, I hope the thoughts and appreciation for our brave men and women in uniform are not confined to a day in May. I hope that we remember and honor those who offered it all in support of country since her birth. I hope that we appreciate those who stand the watch still and those who would if they were able. While we spend time with family and enjoy great food and company, I hope we take a minute and consider those who will not take Monday off.
I hope we will remember the families here – the parents that hope, the wives who do it alone, the husbands who wait, the children who don’t understand but are proud. I hope we understand that the price of freedom can’t be quantified in dollars or in a line item on some bill in Washington D.C., but must be measured by the yellow ribbons, empty chairs at dinner and stamps on a letter.
To those who relieved me from my watch, thank you. I wish you a mission well executed, a peaceful night’s sleep, and fair winds and following seas. To their families, thank you. A grateful nation hopes with you.