Several years ago I was confronted by a (distant) relative who had very honorably served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Without taking any merit from him, in his position, he saw NO action. His complaint however was that his service was “REAL" when compared to the pride I took in several members of my family who were 1st Responders, both volunteer and career. I haven't spoken with him since.
Just this week I read a Facebook spat where two men were disputing local leadership decisions. One man backed up his claims with actual township ordinances, the other man's only claim to his opinion was “and where did you serve?”
I have enormous respect for all of the men and women who have served in our country's Armed Forces… both my Dad and my Father-in-law were wounded WW2 vets, and I take pride in multiple members of my family who are currently serving in different branches of our military. I know of many who did not give time in the military, some by personal choice and some that could not for various reasons such as health.
In addition to the appreciation I feel towards our military, I CANNOT refute the value, heroism and sacrifices made by our 1st Responders in protecting our homeland. How can you possibly discount the important contributions made by our firefighters, EMS, and police, both paid and volunteer, in incidents like 9/11, the Covid pandemic, and a slew of devastating natural disasters in recent years?
When my Dad built his after-military life, he joined NYC's Civilian Defense for Operation Alert during a time when Americans feared nuclear war. Years later the Civilian Defense was taken over by the NYC Police Department and the organization was renamed the Auxiliary Police. My Dad continued volunteering and attained the rank of Auxiliary before his premature death in 1977. He was honored by the Jewish War Veterans of America in 1974 for both his military service and his continued commitment to his community. Even though he served in multiple wartime campaigns, he still felt he had the responsibility to help his community.
Our parents instilled a strong commitment to community in both my sister and me as well. My sister became a Candy-Striper at the local hospital. Even my disabled Mom joined a community watch group and later volunteered to type mailing labels for an animal shelter. I joined the Auxiliary Police and served in my Dad's unit. By the way, that is where I met my husband; he has also dedicated much of his life to community service from the Auxiliary Police, to EMS, to disaster medical response wherever needed. And we raised our offspring to give of themselves. Today they and their spouses are career members of multiple 1st response agencies; they have saved lives, property, and have protected our communities and nation.
So while I am damn proud of my family and friends who have served in the military, I also have great respect and gratitude for everyone who serves to protect, strengthen and better our communities and country from within.