I have an acquaintance, a neighbor. He is a United States Marine. I find myself living vicariously through some of his experiences. My original plan was to join the Army upon high school graduation.I’d “go blue”, or join the infantry, good ol’ 11 Bravo. I’d try to go to Airborne school, even go for my Ranger tab. Then, after all the physical hardships of those schools, I’d try my hand at being an 18X soldier: Special Forces. I always thought that I had the mental toughness and the inner drive to survive SFAS and whatnot. I never gave myself the illusion of knowing what it takes to be a Special Forces soldier. But I did know that I perform very well under pressure. I wanted a life of adventure and honor, to be amongst a very special elite. At the very least I wanted to try.

It was never about proving anything to anybody though. It was just to be able to say, hey, I made it through SERE training. I can survive in the darkest and toughest jungle, evade an entire battalion of men searching for me, resist the enemy in the face of torture, and escape from a POW camp if I am ever captured. I know in myself precisely what I am made of. I know that in a given situation, I can handle myself.Those were the fantasies of a young and immature boy. As the years passed, I realized that that path would be no life for a family man. Extended overseas deployments, the ever constant risk of my safety, it certainly is no way for a man with a wife to live. I wouldn’t want to subject my wife and children to such an overshadowing stress. I would want to be there for my children’s birthdays. I would want to be there for his first spelling bee, her first play. I want to celebrate my wife’s fifth anniversary.Idon’t want her to be saying to our children, “Daddy’s off fighting bad guys, but he wishes he were with you.” “Daddy’s very proud that you won the spelling bee.” “Daddy’s wishing you a happy birthday from all the way in Afghanistan!”Yes, families can work out. But it is immensely difficult. A stable family life needs the stable availability of a mother and a father, and a stable home that is made in a single address. I suppose I decided to give up this gung ho brooding super soldier fantasy the moment I decided that I wanted a beautiful family. I also started to see that soldiers are a politician’s tools. In today’s political climate, the role of a soldier is a murky one at best. I would not be serving in a capacity that I would believe in wholeheartedly.

After much internal debate, I came to the conclusion that the grass is not greener on the other side. I would be far more happy being able to spend time with my family and friends than I would be proud that I qualified as an expert marksman with my M-16A2 lightweight, magazine-fed, gas-operated, air-cooled 5.56mm rifle. I don’t look back upon the derailment of my well-laid plans as a missed opportunity. I don’t regret my choices, and I’ve come much closer to making a fully committed decision as to the path I wish to pursue.

I just want to say that I’m grateful for our soldiers overseas fighting for our freedom as well as the freedom of others. Liberty was never free. The price has always been paid for by the blood of patriots and soldiers. Let us never forget the honor the members of our armed forces deserve. I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for the men and women who serve our nation’s military.