Today’s entry almost qualifies as ceditra (the term coined by the early 20th century Brazilian artist Abril Pajyaso to describe the process of creating any art through a random process), but since I did not use my ultra-rare-holo process to create a random topic, this entry will be filed under the “Number in The News” category.
I looked at my watch and the digital read out showed “12:32″. I entered “1232″ into the “magic box” (the name the kids and I call Google) and this was the first hit I saw: an essay contest by the Pekin Daily Times (Illinois) for active military families. The contest is to write an essay explaining why the writer and their family should win a trip to the St. Louis Zoo. This contest is being sponsored by the Pekin Roy L. King VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 1232 (there’s your number for the day) Men’s Auxiliary.
You may feel free to enter this contest, but I cannot.
I do not have a family member who is active-duty military or currently deployed somewhere in the world.
I, myself, have never served either.
As far as I can tell, I am the fourth male in a line of men who have, in one way or another, not served in the military.
My great-grandfather (on my dad’s dad’s side), so the family legend goes, fled eastern Russia at the start of the last century to avoid forced service to fight in the Russo-Japanese War. He sailed across the Pacific Ocean and landed in America in San Francisco, so I will never see his name at Ellis Island.
My grandfather (on my dad’s side) was not drafted when World War II broke out. Whether it was because he was a new parent of my father or because his number was never pulled, I never found out.
My father was not fit enough to serve in Viet Nam. Glasses and flat feet kept him out of serving.
As for me, how do I explain why I never served without sounding like an elitist bastard? Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, the military option in the era of the volunteer army was the path taken by those who had limited career options. The Army is where you went if you needed straightening out or if you needed a way out. Yeah, I’m not proud of that mentality, but there it is.
I did well in school and I kept out of trouble. I graduated with a degree from a prestigious university in the Midwest and I began my life of employment. Desert Storm happened too quickly for me to make a difference (and truth be told [and damned], I didn’t agree with that war anyway) and I was far too old (and heavy) to be of any use after the attacks of September 11 (and truth be told, I didn’t agree with the decision to attack Iraq anyway).
Don’t let the above paragraphs fool you. I’m not anti-military just as I am not anti-teacher. Even though I appreciate the sacrifice and dedication teachers make every day and I understand how important education is to our country’s future, I did not become a teacher because it was not the fit for me. Likewise, I appreciate (but not fully experience) the sacrifice and dedication soldiers make every day and I fully understand how important the military is to our world’s future, but I did not become a soldier because it was not a fit for me.
I found my niche and (until my recent move) did my service to country by having a job, paying taxes, and helping to pay the salary of those who protect me.
I realize I was able to not join the military, enjoy my rights and responsibilities as an American, vote for elected officials, complain about those elected officials, and be blessed with the life I have because many other people saw that the military was right for them.
I am able to not enter an essay contest sponsored by a VFW Post in Pekin, Illinois, because some member of that post landed on Utah Beach in Normandy in 1945 and he gets my thanks.
Dear Pekin Times,
I know I am not able to enter your contest, but if I could nominate someone who should get to go to the St. Louis Zoo for a day, it would be that guy, with the gray hair and glasses who sits near the back of VFW Post 1232 thinking about all of his buddies who hit that French beach with him on D-Day and who aren’t with him anymore.
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