Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Veterans Day up close, personal
Special to The Union
Veterans Day takes on new meaning for me this year. Today, one of our boys arrives in Illinois for his first day of boot camp as a member of the Unites States Armed Forces — Navy.
I have always held veterans and those currently serving in high esteem.
I was a child during the draft years of Vietnam, but not too young to understand the divisiveness of the nation or the fear my parents held onto as they waited to find out if their eligible sons would be sent to war (they were not.)
I also remember listening to the Nixon announcement of “the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam ” and the sense of relief that came with it.
I have many family members who served in one capacity or another in the military, including a brother-in-law and several nephews.
The majority of them happen to be Navy men.
And I have a number of friends who served both as a result of the draft and others who enlisted voluntarily.
I know they were affected in ways those who have not been in the service will never understand. I don’t begin to pretend to.
And now we have a son who will join them — forever a member of a brotherhood reserved only for those who have shared the experience.
He is 22 years old and had been attending community college while working various part-time jobs.
Somewhere along the line, he developed an interest in law enforcement — but he was out of financial aid and did not want to go into debt to get a degree.
He said he always knew about the military as an option because he had friends who joined right out of high school. So he looked into it.
And then he surprised himself by testing well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB exam).
Suddenly, he felt he had options. Inexplicably, the law enforcement idea went out the window.
Before we knew it he had signed a six-year commitment.
He will study advanced electronics. As I understand it, is one step below the nuclear program.
He will spend the next two months in basic training “boot camp,” followed by 18 months of schooling — and should come out a Petty Officer 2nd Class E4.
He will then spend the next four years on ships and two years in the Reserve — unless he reenlists.
He sees it as his best opportunity to receive an education and a career.
I asked him what he is most looking forward to and he said it is the skills he will learn, the pay (of course) and what he sees as finally starting his life.
He is also excited at the prospect of shooting missiles and learning more about electronics.
Fifteen years ago, I would have not thought twice about his decision.
As I said, I have many family members who are now veterans.
But the kids (because let’s face it, they are still basically children) who signed up for a chance at a better education in the summer of 2001 had no idea they would be heading into combat that fall.
The pride I have for his decision is a mixed bag of worry, as well.
The number of personnel who were active pre-2001 was half the active number at the end of the Vietnam era and remains so today.
Still, today’s military is an active military.
Concern for the safety and well-being of our enlisted population is high — and current events indicate we are far from out of the woods.
While our new sailor looks with excitement at the possibility of exploring parts of Asia or Europe, as a parent, our government’s involvement in these parts of the world take on a personal interest.
We are looking forward to seeing who this young man becomes under the discipline of training and the maturity the next six years will bring.
We will be keeping a keen eye on foreign policy, and become more active in learning about military spending and Veterans benefits.
Our vantage point is a bit higher than this inexperienced enthusiastic recruit who, when asked why he joined, responded (tongue in cheek), “So I can get into the Nevada County Fair for free, of course.”
Yes, it is a nice thank you for a life-changing commitment.
Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. Be certain to thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice for the common good.
As the saying goes, “All gave some. Some gave all.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at email@example.com.
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