Editor’s note: What a better way to celebrate the Military Appreciation Month than with some “Why I Joined” stories?

May is here and spring is in the air unless you live in New England where it feels like March. However, May is National Military Appreciation Month. During the month, there are several days set aside for recognizing and honoring our military members, the grandest of which is always Memorial Day.

I’ve always enjoyed — and written about it here on several times — the entire Memorial Day process in our little town. The schools put together a bunch of programs and invest a lot of time and effort into them. Each of the elementary, junior and high schools have programs in which they invite vets from the VFW, American Legion, and Veterans Council, of which I am our local commander, to attend and participate. And of course, we also have our annual Memorial Day parade and ceremonies at the local town hall and cemeteries. 

Unfortunately, most of that will not happen this year. Schools are closed for the duration of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so none of those visits will be conducted. Even the annual Memorial Day ceremonies are in jeopardy of being canceled. We’ll have to recognize and honor our veterans the best we can, under the circumstances, with all of the specific days that have been set aside this National Military Appreciation Month. 

Which leads us to another topic. For all of our military members, both past and present, the question that is posed to them is “what made you join the military?”

Everyone has their own reasons. For some, it was the opportunity to put away money for educational purposes; and depending on your MOS and situation, there are opportunities to serve and study during your enlistment. Others feel the calling for service to their country and the need to pay their share for living under the umbrella of freedom that we all enjoy. 

Others just want “to get the hell out of Dodge” of life in poor communities with little hope of advancement or in a boring backwater and just want to get out and see other parts of the world. Job stability and benefits are a definite draw to those who fall under this category. 

The author with a pack animal back in his SF days in Central America.

Speaking for myself, the main reason I joined was that I wanted a challenge and to push myself beyond what I ever dreamed being capable of. To just join the conventional military wasn’t a draw to me. I was, at the time of my enlistment, in a dead-end relationship, working a job that I didn’t particularly enjoy, and bored. I wanted to be part of something special, and make a difference.