Monday, May 24, 2010
In These Footsteps
I travelled to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky this weekend, home of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) "Screaming Eagles" for my father's retirement after 35 years of service in the U.S. Army.
I grew up on Army posts all over the world. I had become acustomed to the lifestyle, it was normal to have helicopters flying over my house, see tanks driving down the road while I walked to school, or have daily conversations with uniformed men and women carrying assault rifles. Two different events this weekend caused me to reflect upon the humble sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make daily.
The first being the actual retirement ceremony. My father is not the norm in the length of service he has given to our country. Typically, a soldier will retire with full benifits after twenty years. My father almost doubled that commitment, 35 years. There were about 20 soldiers retiring at this ceremony, of those 20, four or five served between 21 and 26 years. 10-12 retirees had served the typical 20 and a few had served a little less. In total, they were celebrating a combined 440 years of military service; 38 years served in combat. I am gratful for the gift these men and women have given us. There was a receiving line after the ceremony, I took the time to shake the hand of every one of the retiring soldiers, offer my congratulation, look them in the eye and thank them.
My second opportunity for reflection came as I rose early Saturday morning to run a 18 mile long run. As I began my run, I slowly moved away from the housing area on post, past the stores and the bowling alley and towards the barracks that housed the different units. I ran past motor pools full of Humvees and tanks. I ran along the fenced-in airfield and hangers that the helicopters called home. Then I began to run past this stretch of trees spaced evenly apart, lined in perfect rows. These trees were tall, as if they had been there for a long time. At the base of each tree there was a monument. I had an idea what these monuments were, the picture became even more clear when I saw another monument. It was about 20 feet tall, made out of marble, on the monument walls were names, names of fallen brothers and sisters from battles past. For me, the most stirring part of this monument would be the four life sized "sentrys", marble statues of uniformed soldiers standing guard around the perimeter of this monument. The next few miles passed while I reflected on the commitemnt and sacrifice so many had made. I was running along a well worn path, a path that 1000's of Air Assault soldiers ran daily. 100 people join the military for 100 different reasons. Some to get away from their family or hometown. Some are "forced", some volunteer willingly. Some are seeking educational assistance or some join out of a sense of civic duty. They all serve proudly. It was an honor to run amongst these warriors this weekend, it is a great honor to be the son of a retired U. S. Army soldier.