Happy Veterans Day whether your sacrifice was large or small

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Mathew Petersen provides security during a four-day patrol through Nawa district in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Nov. 3, 2011. Petersen is a Navy corpsman attached to the Marines. Photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew, USMC

Today is Veterans Day, 11/11/11. I will leave the speeches to the speech-makers. I thank those who served, from those few who are still around from Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, to those serving all over the world these days. This picture above was just a random photo I picked from the Department of Defense Web site. It doesn’t say much about this young sailor, other than he is a medic. The Navy has long-furnished its corpsmen to the Marines since that component of the Navy doesn’t have its own medical care, or ships (not talking about boats) for that matter. These days, some folks from all service branches may go to a combat zone to serve as an individual augmentee, or IA.¬† Sailors also face combat on the high seas, whether it be searching for pirates or seeking weapons smugglers.

Speaking of IAs, I don’t know if that’s what they were called back in the day when I served. When I first deployed for sea duty and my ship first set out for the Western Pacific I volunteered for an individual assignment at Subic Bay, Philippines. It was a six-month stint as an Armed Forces policeman. That means I would be patrolling the streets of Olongapo where one could not walk without running into a bar or a hooker. This was when I first went to sea, as I said, I didn’t know anyone and tired of under way watches at sea which were four hours long and rotated around the clock. My watch was standing on the bridge, talking over sound-powered telephone with Combat Information Center. My job was to relay any radar contacts CIC picked up to the Captain or the Officer of the Deck. It was mostly pretty boring except for the time we left San Diego in a thick fog with inbound merchant ships headed our way, only to have the helmsman discover that we lost steering. Luckily the guy manning “after steering” was able to steer blindly from his little space below the fantail. It was hairy for a little while.

As it turned out, one of my fellow office mates got the job because I was deemed “too important” to the mission to go be a cop for six months. Too important my eye! What if I fell overboard and was lost to Davy Jones Locker? As it turned out though, I got to know some great guys and we had more fun than the law allowed — no seriously, we did — all over the western and southern Pacific. Our ship spent November and December and into the first week of January, including Christmas and New Years, in New Zealand and Australia. I guess by not serving¬† as Shore Patrol for six months in the Philippines and thus not getting my ass kicked by drunken sailors and Marines was my sacrifice.

I will leave you to think about your sacrifices or lack thereof. My burden was not all that heavy for me, thankfully. Still, all military folks share sacrifice whether it be large, as in with their lives, or small.

Happy Veterans Day.

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