The Freedom of Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness

The reality of my son turning 18 hit home when I went to check the mail this week. A few days before his birthday registration for the Selective Service System arrived. It is difficult for me to imagine my son being eligible to serve his country in the military. In many ways is a very mature young man. Yet, last night, he was eating pizza and playing video games. In my eyes, he is still a playful child. When I imagine him in the army and the possibility of engaging in combat my stomach gets a bit squeamish. On the other side, I can think of nothing that would make me more proud than Blake serving his country.

Blake and I talked about his future and what it meant to register for Selective Service. “It means you’re registering for the military should there be a need for a draft,” I told him. He explained that he would be exempt from a draft because he played high school football. I gave him a look, and he said, “I am just kidding dad.” I teased that making varsity might be an excellent first start.

The last draft may seem like an eternity ago, but it wasn’t. The most recent draft ended on January 27, 1973. The date that many associates with the end of the Vietnam War. Less than 50 years ago, If your number was called, you served your country.

Tucked between Blake’s Birthday and Independence Day is my dad’s birthday. Dad would have turned 81 this year. He passed away six years ago, and I miss him terribly. Perhaps it is Dad’s birthday, Blake turning 18, or news over North Korea. But the sacrifices my dad and many others made to serve our country have been on my mind.

My dad was a veteran. Dad signed up for the Army in 1954, but his other choice was not as appealing. A judge gave dad an ultimatum after several appearances for his unruly behavior. “Serve hard time or serve your country,” the judge said. Not much of choice, Dad told me several years ago. He left the courthouse and went straight to the nearest recruiting office. There was one problem. Dad was deaf in one ear and knew he couldn’t pass the physical. So to ensure he avoided the “clink” he “cupped” his good ear and was able to pass the hearing test. A few weeks later he was at Fort Riley Kansas for basics.

Thankfully, the Korean War had officially ended when Dad landed in Korea. He arrived in time to help peacekeeping and transition. His nearest brush with death came when a friendly tank drove within a few inches of his head as he slept on his good ear. He survived Korea and his “voluntary” stint in the Army. He was Honorably discharged as a Private First Class in 1957.

Regardless of the path my dad took to serve his country, I am proud of him. I am proud of all those that have served our country. I’m not sure what Blake’s future looks like. He has tremendous potential and can do anything his heart desires. He also lives in the United States of America and has the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom that was made available to him by a veteran.

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