Always a Soldier
There are many reasons people choose a career in the military: patriotism, travel, education, benefits, family and friends, to name just a few. It's certainly not a good way to become wealthy, unless you're one of the very few that become high-ranking general officers. Even there, these people don't become wealthy during their careers. For a number of people, however, the reason for remaining beyond that first short commitment is a greater commitment - a commitment to the nation they serve, and the people they protect. That's a commitment that recognizes few boundaries, and knows no end.
A soldier's first duty is to the Constitution of the United States, and the people it represents. Everything else falls under that, and the obedience of "those appointed over me", from the corporal of the watch to the President of the United States. The training, the capabilities developed, the constant exercises to keep that training and knowledge sharp , all stems from the duty of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States, and the people it represents, from its enemies.
Some of the things soldiers are asked to do may seem totally insane at the time, but usually fall into place when viewed from the perspective of history. There were times during World War I and II when soldiers were asked to do what was considered insane by many not in the military, yet somehow the soldiers overcame the obstacles and persisted. Korea was an exercise in doing the unbelievable, day after day. Vietnam was a disaster for the professional military, not from the performance of the troops, but from the muddled or nonexistent civilian leadership that hamstrung the military, and the political manipulation of every aspect of the war. For the first time during the Cold War, the people of the United States, and its government, failed to honor its military, and turned its back on the cries of an ally.
There is one reason for a military, at least from the perspective of those within it: to ensure that the people of the United States live under a government of their choosing, one that secures and protects the rights of the individual. Many of the wars the United States has fought has been to ensure the continuity of that form of government. Frequently, in the last 50 years or so, we have fought to protect the people of other nations, so they, too, could share the benefits of such government. There is no greater honor for those who have committed themselves to a military career than to help others achieve what we strive to protect: a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" of that nation.
We did that in Cuba, and in the Philippines. We succeeded with Germany and Japan following World War II. We helped the people of South Korea protect its new freedom from Communist aggression. We were set to do the same thing in Vietnam, except for a failure of vision and leadership from our civilian bosses.
Ronald Reagan helped the people of Grenada fend off an imposed government, and removed a tyrant undermining American interests and waging clandestine warfare against the United States from Panama. George H. W. Bush used the military might of the United States and its allies to free Kuwait from the ravages of Saddam Hussein. Bill Clinton used military force to stop genocidal war in the Balkans. Our current president, George W. Bush, has used US military capabilities to oust a totalitarian government in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to protect the newly-elected fledgling governments from destruction by outside forces.
Soldiering is a young man's job. It's rough, dirty, boring, dangerous, and unrelenting. It requires constant vigilence, physical stamina, exceptional training, and the best of equipment and protection. It also takes dedication - to the military, to the job at hand, and to fellow soldiers, regardless of the color of their uniform.
Today there's no difference between "front-line" and "support" troops, between Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. Everyone is under constant threat from those that would wage terror war equally against our military and our civilian populace. Everyone is a target, everyone is a soldier. Neither those trained in the art of war nor those who oppose every aspect of such training are free from threat, nor is anyone immune. By keeping the enemy actively committed in one theater, we have a short respite here in this theater, but the threat hasn't diminished or gone away.
Those of us no longer fit to carry a rifle and pack, to wage war on the enemy's soil rather than ours, still have a duty to those who have taken our place in the front ranks. We serve by upholding the traditions of the past, by encouraging the acceptance of today's military requirements, by honoring and supporting those in harm's way. Those of us who can keep our government's attention on the needs of those in uniform. Those of us who cannot help in any other way pray constantly for the safety and well-being of our fellow soldiers as they do their duty to God, to Country, to our Constitution and our people. This is our duty - to ourselves, our nation, and our fellow soldiers. There is no end to this duty as long as American servicemen continue the mission we once were committed to.