What Does it Mean to Be a Military Veteran?

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ARABIAN SEA (March 9, 2007) - Sailors assigned to supply department aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) work diligently to transfer supplies from the flight deck to the hangar bay during a replenishment at sea with Military Sealift Command (MSC) fast combat support ship USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10). Stennis Carrier Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Hyde (RELEASED)
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ARABIAN SEA (March 9, 2007) - Sailors assigned to supply department aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) …

FIRST PERSON | When I was serving in the U.S. Navy, Veterans Day never seemed to be that important to me. It's not that I didn't care about the holiday, but instead, there were other things on my mind. I had a job to do. I took my mission seriously, and I never took the time to reflect on how special the day truly is.

I joined the Navy on Aug. 19, 1997, and served as an Information Systems Technician for nine years. I served at sea (USS Supply), on foreign soil (Naples, Italy), and in America's military heart (the Pentagon). Each experience brought me little joy at the time. There was too much going on around me to put my career in perspective.

Five years later, I can tell you how proud I am to have served this country. I remember the fear I felt when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place, and how every single one of us had to step up and become the heroes that the American people needed us to be. It became a final rite of passage into manhood for me, and that's something I'll treasure every day of my life. I'm glad that I served this country, and I wouldn't change a thing about my time of service.

Unfortunately, my tour of duty has meant little in my civilian life. Few people actually care that I'm a veteran. It certainly hasn't helped me find a job. Perhaps I'm not as highly regarded because I served during the unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or maybe I've just been unlucky.

However, what I can tell you what other people think of me as a veteran doesn't matter. I did my duty and gave my heart and soul for the U.S. for nine years. I endured every hardship, passed every test and pressed forward just like every one of my comrades did. We did it together, and as a result, the tie that binds all of us remains tight. That's what it means to be a military veteran. We've been there together. We've stood against all odds, and despite any differences we've have with each other, the members of the U.S. military continue to stand tall.

On Friday, I'll pause and reflect on everything my fellow service members did over the years, and I'll remain thankful that I can be counted among them. I couldn't be more proud to have served in the U.S. military.

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