Building a Better Nation

Lt. Col. Wales, who is the head of the Army ROTC department at not only BSU, but also NW Nazarene University, Idaho State University, and BYU-Idaho, spoke to us after FTX while waiting for the Blackhawks. He said a lot of things that caused me to reflect on how lucky I am to have this opportunity. Seriously though! This class has put me in a helicopter, gotten me tours of the mechanic bays of the Apaches, had me repelling off the Student Union Building, and sliding across the Boise River on a rope bridge. The stuff we do is so cool and totally breaks the mold of your standard student.

I can only really remember my dad saying it once, but I maintain that my father raised me with my top three priorities being to God, family, and country, and in that order. I think it was just one of those small things that stuck out to me, and I ran with it. Additionally, I always think back to all the war movies I watched with him. He’d take time to pause and help me understand what happened, why it happened, what I can learn from it, and help me to appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice. I remember watching a Civil War movie where this guy was inspecting all these dead bodies on the field, when all of a sudden, one of them flipped over and stabbed him. Dad asked me what I could have done to make sure he was dead. My little 6-year old self (or somewhere around there), hesitantly suggested, “Shoot him again?” Dad was so proud! 🙂

Sadly, only 1% of America serves their country. Crazy to think about when you reflect on how strong of opinions people have about all the issues buzzing around. It’s their inherit right to be able to have that opinion, but it’s rather hollow when someone else is the one who fought for your opinion. “…the greatest challenge to our military is not from a foreign enemy — it’s the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.” (Source: NY Times)

I love the idea of mandatory military service. It’s fairly common throughout several countries. I’m obviously partial to all things German. They serve at 18. I think it’s great. Think of a workplace where everyone has accomplished physical training, developed critical thinking in the stress of combat situations, and leadership and team-building courses. You’d have a healthier, smarter workforce, insurance would be lower because of their level of fitness (sidenote: insurance companies in Germany pay you to take health classes like yoga because it’s cheaper for them in the long-run), and you wouldn’t have to fund the annual go-kart trip to “develop unity.”

An interesting parallel as a missionary was to have everyone thanking me for my service. One time, I got into an elevator with a serviceman in uniform. I thanked him for his service, and he retorted with, “Thank you for your’s.” It totally caught me off guard. I get placed fairly frequently in similar situations when I’m in uniform. On Friday, we marched as a unit in the Veterans Day Parade downtown, and I was early, so I stopped off at the gas station to snag a hot chocolate. She only had me pay for the cup, since I was in uniform! On the way home, I got 4 small hot chocolates and a little chocolate-covered maraschino cherry all for 90 cents! Best roommate ever?

The parade was great. It reminded me of marching band. I loved it. We did a lot of standing around, since we were early. It was around 40 degrees, too, so we were all freezing in our two-layered uniform. Someone shouted my name a few times as we rounded a corner. I think it was a member who’s ward I served in.

BSU Color Guard at the Veterans Day celebration yesterday (souce: BSU)
Veterans Day Celebration 2014

As much as I hate poetry – in fact, it’s on an extensive list of over 200 things I hate (especially when they don’t rhyme) – I think this poem illustrates the overall point I’m trying to make:

It’s the Soldier
It’s the soldier, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.
It’s the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It’s the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It’s the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, serves under the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives the protestor the right to burn the flag.

~Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC


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