As a Veteran and actively serving U.S. Army officer, I would like to provide my unique perspective on the “Thanks for your service” discussion I heard multiple times this weekend at various Veteran’s Day events and in the media. To start, you should know that many of my brothers and sisters harbor a real reluctance to embrace this acknowledgement. They may be struggling with a tragedy, the military life might have been a “means to an end” for them, or they now see their patriot idealism and service to country just wasn’t the fulfillment they expected. The reasons take many forms and capturing the unique situations for every service member would be impossible to cover in such a short forum. Consequently, given the timeliness of the discussion and my desire to share, I thought it would be fitting for you to hear how one Veteran see their service and the greater implication.
First and foremost, I’m a wholehearted believer in “Thanks for your service”. I’m not talking the cheesy, I get warm inside and puff up my feathers type of way. I’m talking about the pride that allows you to value yourself as a real contributor for the Nation. One of the “one half of one percent who serve”—a real difference maker. It’s also the type of pride that allows you to see past the divisions and try to unite others in common causes for the betterment of society. I discussed up front that I’m still actively serving. I think this continued service plays a key role in my upbeat and positive assessment about where we’re at as servants for the Nation. Similarly, I would also account having the best job on campus as a strong contributor toward embracing the value of my service. As the senior leader for future Army officers in the ROTC Program, I see the tenacity and desire of the students to improve every day. Their motivation at physical training, leadership labs, and in class provides a true sense of accomplishment when I head home after 16-18 hour days. The third part of the equation that allows me to really be invested in the outreach of others to say “thanks”, is that my service extends beyond the military. I know that everything I do as an Army professional has a related impact in the community. Every new leader that I train will go on to shape many others who will also invest in their communities when they leave the Army.
Now that you know my position on “Thanks for your service”, the story switches over from what I think to how the extended service component talked about above becomes reality. In February 2017, I met for coffee with a dedicated community servant and university professional from the SHSU Financial Aid office. This servant, Mrs. Judy Dohrman approached me about resuming a service-oriented effort to ship care packages to deployed Soldiers. She did this out of the kindness of her heart and simply wanted to brighten the day of Soldiers in time for Christmas. Well, given her commitment and desire to make the event a reality, I was absolutely positive that we could help her achieve the mission. So, we set out to build a list of supporters in the community and the university and to get the event off the ground. To also move things forward, I retooled the Academic Community Engagement Program for ROTC for the Fall Semester allowing us to focus their service on this event. Luckily, I also had a former military member show up on my doorstep about two months out from the event date. This is where things get interesting!
As I talked about above, part of the reason I’m happy to accept a hearty “Thanks for your service” is because I know the ROTC Program develops servants for life. In this case, the former military member who popped in to the rescue was a 2006 graduate of the SHSU ROTC program. Mr. Gerald Stoermer, who recently got out of the Army, moved back to Huntsville, and is finishing up his Master’s in Higher Education Administration from the University of Louisville showed up ready to work. He set out to make the event a big accomplishment and really hit the bullseye through his efforts. As a result of his dedication, intellect, and hard work, “Operation You Are Not Forgotten” went off this past Friday, 10 November at the HEARTS Museum with great success. The team of volunteers from across Huntsville packaged up nearly 250 boxes full of comfort items for deployed Soldiers. In addition to Judy and Gerald’s service, it goes without saying that we must recognize many others for making the event fun and worthwhile. The collaborative efforts of USO Houston, SHSU Enrollment Management, SHSU Honors College, SHSU Leadership Initiatives, Alpha and Omega Academy, Conroe VFW Post 4709, Pita Pit, and many others local establishments who allowed us to put out collection boxes made the event a phenomenal way to say thanks to many troops. By pulling together our resources and time, we were able to show our gratitude for those at the tip of the spear protecting our Country.
In closing, I hope that my acknowledgement of “Thanks for your service” as a valuable and important ideal for our society also provides meaning for you personally. All Veterans won’t accept your words with the same vigor, but I hope someday they can see your support in the same way I see it, as a true expression from a thankful citizen living in a grateful and blessed Nation. A nation that’s still producing people in Huntsville and SHSU who cared enough to get involved in charitable events like Operation You Are Not Forgotten. For each and every person out there who helped us to say “Thanks for your service” this past weekend, I have four little words: right back at you!