Fringe benefits nice but don’t compare to making difference
Why I serve in the military is best seen from two viewpoints, “Why did I join?” and, “Why did I stay?” When I joined the military, it was largely for what I call the “fringe benefits.” A guaranteed retirement after 20 years, pretty good pay, a chance to see the world, and great job security all seemed pretty enticing to a college student watching his friends fret over job interview after job interview. Additionally, the military was offering to pay for my last two years of college and then teach me how to fly airplanes! I figured if I didn’t like it, I could punch out after a few years and get a job in the civilian sector.
Now that I have just over 12 years of service, I can’t imagine a better way to live my life! I’ve seen what a strong family the military can be; how we stand up for one another in both good times and bad. Watching over 2,000 people line Grant Avenue on Oct. 16 to honor a fallen soldier was proof positive of this very fact. I’ve also had the opportunity to airlift wounded soldiers — from Afghanistan and Iraq — all the way back to the United States. The dedication of the medical crews to saving the lives of these injured soldiers is nothing short of amazing.
I’ve had the opportunity to see some incredible places on this globe and some really bad ones. Very few people in our country have the chance to see the wretched living conditions in which millions upon millions of people live. When I was a child, I used to complain how bad my life was when I couldn’t have a new toy or go on an exciting vacation. My father, who had been enlisted in the Air Force, would tell me, “You should be happy with what you have. There are a lot of people in this world that can only dream of having what we have.” Even as I matured, I couldn’t fully grasp what my father meant until the military afforded me the chance to see some of these same places he had. I can only say that dad, as usual, was right. We are all extremely fortunate to be Americans.
Perhaps the most important reason that I serve is the belief that I make a difference. Every day, I can make a difference in the lives of those who serve under my leadership and those who serve beside me. The military offers incredible opportunities to lead and take care of people. Finally, though I am but one person, standing beside my fellow airmen, soldiers, and sailors, I believe we help guarantee the freedoms that each and every American enjoys every day. That is why I serve.
— Schmidt is an Intermediate Level Education student at Fort Leavenworth
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