I sometimes think of myself as a veteran by accident. Not because I didn’t intend to join the military, but because I wasn’t able to make it the career I planned to. I joined the Navy on the 17th of December in 2001. In basic training, my knees developed issues which caused pain and discomfort due to a disciplinary practice the petty officers of my division’s brother division instituted in order to get the females in my division to shut up because they seemed incapable of having quiet conversations: kneeling at attention. I don’t know why this simple and harmless discipline caused my knees to go bad; nobody else suffered ill effects from it.
I gave up writing in order to make the Navy my career, and I stuck it out in boot camp despite my knee problems. In part because I was so determined to succeed in the Navy. The rest was because my petty officers were supportive and told me I could get proper help for my knees at my Advanced Training School. I was never happier than the day I graduated basic training, and I had utmost confidence I’d succeed in every future endeavor I made while in the Navy.
Unfortunately for me, my condition, patella-femoral syndrome, where the kneecap slips out of place, was considered irreparable by the head officer of my training school’s medical center. Even after physical therapy and practicing a separate physical fitness regimen designed to “repair” my knees by strengthening specific muscles so my kneecaps wouldn’t shift, I was discharged based on my medical problem on the 1st of November 2002.
So, I sometimes consider myself a veteran by accident.
And it makes me very appreciative of those who have been able to serve in the US’s military on a more permanent basis. From those who enter merely for a college education, to those who have spent twenty or more years serving our country—I cannot help but respect and admire that kind of dedication. I have some small inkling of the price they pay, and the rewards they gain, for their Service.
It is no small thing to enter the military. It requires dedication, determination, and a strength of will not many people have. I have known people who entered and dropped out because it was “too hard” to go through basic training. When I was in basic, I admired my petty officers. Hell, I admired pretty much anybody I met who was in the military before joining the Navy. They’d done something admirable, and I still hold immense respect for them. Perhaps even more respect than before, because I know something of what they went through to become the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines they are today.
So, on this Veterans day, I wish all our Veterans—those still in Service as well as those who have left it and rejoined the civilian world—a happy Veterans’ Day. You have my respect and my admiration, and always will.