Happy Veteran’s Day 2022, from one who did not serve

Elizabeth L. Gardner (1921 – December 22, 2011), pilot for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II

On Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) we honor those who have fallen in battle in the defense of our great nation. On Veteran’s Day, we honor all those who have served.

I did not serve in the military. I thought about it, and even seriously investigated the prospect several times. But in the end, I decided not to. Not for ideological reasons (I have always admired the US Armed Forces), but for narrowly pragmatic ones. 

I was prime military age (18 to 24) from 1986 to 1992. This was during the long, peaceful interregnum between the end of the Cold War, and 9/11 and the start of our extended troubles in the Middle East. The midpoint of that period (1991), was a time when historians liked to wax optimistic about “the end of history” and whatnot. Oh, how wrong they turned out to be.

But there was another reason: service in uniform involves a big interruption in a young person’s life. While there are positive aspects to military life, no doubt, even a minimal stint in the military means two to four years of putting other plans on hold. 

I have never suffered from any shortage of plans, of things that I wanted to pursue and work on. As a result, I did not serve in the military. I went to college, I worked, I enjoyed the benefits of peacetime life in the United States. 

This is why I am all the more grateful—and humble—in my regard for those who did make that choice, and that sacrifice. They did what I did not do.

As noted above, “the end of history” was a naive illusion of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The world has always been a dangerous place, and always will be. That is why I say, to all American men and women in uniform, past, present, and future: thank you for standing on the line, and defending our civilization and its many freedoms.