“My Fellow Americans, Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Your Country.” President John F. Kennedy
“Thank you for your service.” These are usually the words I hear once someone learns I served in the US Army. While I am grateful that the majority of our country appreciates the sacrifice of military service members, this statement always makes me wonder if we appreciate the service and sacrifice to our country of those outside of the US military.
My wife is a Registered Nurse and for the past three years has chosen to work at a women’s homeless shelter. Not because the pay is great, but because the women need her. After family members, friends and society have given up on these women, my wife stands ready to help them.
After graduating from a Top-25 law school, my younger brother turned down six-figure salaries at the nation’s top law firms to become an assistant-district attorney. He routinely works 80+ hours a week to ensure the law is upheld. If there is a murder or a child-pornography case, he has to examine every piece of evidence and interview each person involved. After experiencing the horrors of war, I know that these are things that you cannot un-see and will stay with you the rest of your life.
Two of my best friends are high school math teachers. When I think about it, I would much rather be back in Afghanistan, in the thick of a firefight, than in a high school classroom attempting to teach high-schoolers the nuances of calculus. Both of these individuals have an ability to explain the complexities of math so well that even I understand it. Their personalities are un-rivaled and with their intelligence, they could easily make five times the amount of money working in the private sector.
I could go on and on about the people I have met in my life that have served our country in various capacities. They are selfless individuals that realize there are things in life greater than themselves and their ambitions. These are the citizens that make our society not only function, but also thrive.
I used to think President Kennedy’s eternal words – “ask what you can do” – spoke only to military service; that the only way to serve my country, and the greater good, was to become a soldier. As a Green Beret I found it easy to contribute to society and solve problems most people were unwilling or unable to address. After medically retiring from the Army and drawing on the wisdom gained from years of military experience, I realize the President’s call to service does, and should, take different forms. So, for all those serving our country in whatever capacity they are able, thank you for your service.