Look, I like glory and credit just as much as the next guy, but it’s my daughter who serves. She’s a Lieutenant in the Army, and everyone says she has a brilliant career ahead of her. The Army is constantly sending me letters and mailings thanking me for my service. And all I do is support my daughter the best I can.
She serves, though. Really serves. I kind of resent the idea that the Army would dilute her credit for her very real, much riskier, service, with some platitudinous notion that I (and my son) should share in her credit. Nope. I’m not buying it.
As I said, I love credit like anyone else, but I’d prefer to earn my credit, thank you, not just bask in reflected glory. And I prefer to let my wonderful daughter keep all the great credit that’s rightfully due her. And due her alone.
I do serve my country. I’m a successful business man; I’ve saved my employers (because of one of my specialties) many tens of millions of dollars, and in so doing, I’ve helped hundreds, maybe thousands, obtain gainful employment. However, the risks I’ve taken have not been to my life and limb. My daughter has accepted to take on that risk, and she does it so that you and I might sleep soundly and securely in our beds each night. I’m grateful for that.
I saw a commercial for USAA, the insurance company that specializes in insuring veterans and active duty service members. In the commercial, the wife of a serviceman was holding her young child, and saying: “We serve too” Her tone was defiant, emphatic, a tone that brooked no dissent. As if to say, “I deserve all the credit that he gets too!”
But, as someone in a similar position — a close family member of a soldier — I know that I do not serve. I help… but I do not serve. And, as mentioned, I don’t at all like the diluting of the credit due to those who actually do serve, by offering me credit.
I’ve sent letters to the Army asking them not to thank me for “my service,” because I’d support my daughter in whatever career path she might have chosen. That she chose a particularly noble path, serving in the military of the greatest country that’s ever existed should redound to her credit, not to mine or to my son’s.
My daughter is intelligent, wise beyond her years, mature and a deeply patriotic American. She has real character and integrity. She’s honest, fair, thoughtful and articulate. She’s funny and sweet, approachable and friendly, and she works hard to be the genuinely good person that she is. Her head is squarely set on her young shoulders, and she knows why she’s so patriotic, and can defend that patriotism vigorously in discussion and debate. She’s an exemplary citizen of this greatest country that’s ever existed. She has all these wonderful characteristics because of one simple thing: she chose to have them. That last was her decision alone. Her decision to serve in the military was hers too.
Of course, she asked me for my advice, and I gave it voluntarily. I spoke to her of risk, and of the nobility of the pursuit. Of the greatness of the country, and of how America truly deserves our best efforts on her behalf. I spoke to her of the risk that this country might turn on veterans, as they did to Vietnam vets, in a deeply shameful episode in our history. As well as of the countervailing possibility that the current tenderness America feels toward those who risk their safety for her might be long-lasting.
I spoke to her candidly also of the risk of which I was intimately aware… the risk to me. My daughter (along with my son) owns my heart. The thought of losing her causes me genuine terror; the thought of losing her at the hands of another is even worse. Her thought process was overloaded with weighty factors, involving all the people and things, friends, places and memories she holds most dear.
After poring through all that, she decided to serve in the military. That decision was hers alone. The credit for it belongs to her alone.
She serves. My son and I don’t. We support. It’s a vast privilege to do all we can to support such an extraordinary young lady, as she brings to bear her considerable energy and focus to making the world safer for you and me.
Could anyone on Earth be more proud of her than I? Nope. But the credit is all hers. So, Army… thanks for thinking of me, but you can stop thanking me for my service. My daughter thanks me for my support, and that’s enough for me.