The Challenges of Service and the Opportunity to Serve
National service comes in many shapes and sizes. Tens of thousands of men and women answer the call to join the Armed Forces each year, and quickly find themselves inundated with the unique demands and expectations of their respective military branches. Many others choose to serve via Peace Corps or AmeriCorps programs, which offer their own unique challenges, not dissimilar from the military. I have had the unique experience of serving in both and have come to believe in the value of both.
During my time in the Army, I learned how overwhelming the military experience can be, and how your emotions become oddly tangled between apprehension and pride. I will never forget sitting on my bunk the first night of basic training, falling asleep exhausted with my Army shirt tucked under one arm, knowing I finally made it.
When I began serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I also initially experienced some apprehension. My response to this new situation raised common emotions driven by the tension of moving to a new city, working with new people in a new setting, and living on a tight budget. All of these feelings were as vivid as the moment 13 years before when my Drill Sergeant woke me the morning after I “made it” by banging his baton on a garbage can lid next to my smiling face.
In any event, those who participate in the military or national service give a portion of themselves -whether small or large — in the name of a greater cause and an expanded sense of responsibility to their communities and country.
Recognizing All Types of Service
Veterans Day honors those who served in our military, not the servicemembers giving their time and energy on behalf of the country in other capacities. This seems appropriate given the level of risk inherent in military service, both in peacetime or times of war. I do not believe, however, that those serving elsewhere should go unrecognized — service is still service, regardless of whether it occurs in the face of eminent danger or not.
Nevertheless, I believe true recognition comes from within ourselves and is a gradual process of recognizing those qualities that have blossomed under the sustained effort toward a cause greater than our own health and happiness.
When surveying the ups and downs of my personal journey, I feel that my development has been exponentially affected by the positive presence of those around me. Although the outlets for my service have changed over time — first as an Army officer, then as a State Trooper, and, finally, as an AmeriCorps VISTA — the one immutable facet of my adult life seems to be the high quality and character of those serving around me.
It is the blessing of continued service in the company of high-minded individuals inspires me to always strive to earn the recognition others may give me on days like today.
David Gosling is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA. He works as the Director of Community Engagement for Got Your 6, and is a former U.S. Army Captain.