This afternoon, my “baby” sister called to chat. We didn’t talk long, but she felt the need to thank me for having served in our nation’s military. I served four years active duty in the United States Navy and another 12 years in the United States Naval Reserves.
I thought about my experiences in the military, which generally aren’t all that different from those shared by anyone else that has served. I thought about the things I learned and how I grew up in that time.
I appreciate it when people stop to thank me (and anyone else that has served) for my service, but I think that the people that really deserve the “thanks” often go unrecognized.
As a member of the military, one knows that one’s life is on the line almost every day. If one is fortunate one serves in peace-time, when the American military presence is intended to be a deterrent against attacks. There are those whose lives are in danger every single day, simply by virtue of what they do.
Ten years ago, I saw the world as I knew it change. A relatively small group of men commandeered four airliners and set out to show the world that they meant business. I will never really understand what makes terrorists do what they do. To me, they are worse than school bullies that pick on the biggest kid they can, just to prove they’re “tough”. In reality they are self-serving, little dogs who think that they have to resort to violence to make a point. If they kill people in the process, so much the better. This is not about them.
Two of the four jets found their marks in Lower Manhattan, New York City. More than 2,700 people lost their lives when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. A third went to the Pentagon where about 184 were killed, and the fourth was brought down shy of its target in the woods of Shanksville, PA by courageous passengers, where all 40 passengers died. This last flight had either the White House or the US Capitol building as its target.
The heroes I have in mind that deserve more credit than they get are the men and women who serve in Police departments, Fire Departments, and as EMTs. In New York alone, 411 of the casualties were members of the NYPD, Port Authority Police Department, and FDNY or were EMTs. When New York was struck, policemen and firefighters from around the world came to New York to help do what had to be done.
These people risk their lives every day trying to save the lives of other people, and often all they get are relatively meager incomes for their trouble.
When I was in the Navy, I had to learn shipboard firefighting. I learned how to handle different types of fires. I learned the different tools at my disposal. I learned that each person on the team has a purpose, and when that team works together, it goes a long way to making sure everyone is safe. What I learned is but a small part of what your neighborhood firefighter has to know every single day.
Remember your firefighters and police officers. Thank them for what they do. They are the real heroes.
[Edit: corrected typo in paragraph eight.]