Jen Hines, dean of enrollment management in the Office of Admission, shared this personal reflection with the Nobles community during a recent morning Assembly.
I come from a military family. My father served as a pilot in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. During the same period of time, both of my uncles also served, as did almost every male relative of the same age. Before them, both of my grandfathers served in the Army during the Korean War. My spouses’ father made a career of Air Force service, as did his son. The experience of serving this country through military service is a lifestyle that I know and understand. In fact, one of the great regrets of my life is that I didn’t enter the Air Force Reserves after I graduated from college. At the time, it seemed like too much to take on with my first job that demanded a lot of my time, but I know it would have meant a lot to me to spend part of my adult life immersed in a community that I know well.
So, as much as the military has been a part of my upbringing and adult life, I have to constantly remind myself that military life is not reality for most of the people who I interact with on a daily basis. TIME magazine’s cover story a couple of weeks ago was titled, “The Other 1%.” In it, author Mark Thompson reflects on the fact that our military is an increasingly isolated group. And I quote, “As the nation prepares to welcome home some 45,000 troops from Iraq, most Americans have little or nothing in common with the experiences or lives of the 1.4 million men and women in uniform. The past decade of war by volunteer soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines has acted like a centrifuge, separating the nation’s military from its citizens. Most Americans have not served in uniform, no longer have a parent who did and are unlikely to encourage their children to enlist. Never has the U.S. public been so separate, so removed, so isolated from the people it pays to protect it.” I was surprised to learn that thanks mostly to consolidations arising from base closings, 10 states are home to 70% of all Americans in uniform and Massachusetts is definitely not one of the 10 states. The thing that surprises me the most about the lack of knowledge that exists about our military is how little people seem to understand that when someone in a family is serving, the entire family is serving too. If you’re a part of a military family, the job of the service member comes first. Always. The immediate word that comes to my mind when I consider military families is sacrifice followed quickly by service and strength.
I think that there is value in knowing more about the experiences of others, period. Whether or not you personally would ever choose to serve this country through military service is inconsequential to me. What I do care about is the extent to which we take it upon ourselves to understand more about the lives of the people who do serve and their families. Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have given their leadership to a program called Joining Forces. Joining Forces is a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.
Even though they represent only 1% of our population in the US, our military willingly takes on the ultimate responsibility of protecting our entire nation. Remember that they do not make these sacrifices alone.
Freedom isn’t free. Thank you.