It took me about two weeks after I got out of the Army to miss it. Well, not the guard duty, police calls, Staff Duty NCO, Common Task Training, the PT, the parades, telling people to take their hands out of their pockets, standing in the rain, twelve-mile quarterly ruck marches and a million other things. But rather, I missed the people who subjected themselves to those mundane tasks right beside me. No one does that stuff because they like doing those things, but they do it for the guy on their left and right, because the job is always bigger than the man.
If you’re wondering what that ribbon is at the top of this post, it’s a Valorous Unit Citation. It’s the award that I’m most proud of. The Army says that the citation is awarded for “unit gallantry in combat to a degree equivalent to that required for award of a Silver Star to an individual” – it recognizes an entire unit’s extraordinary heroism in the face of an armed enemy. To me it means, to borrow from Band of Brothers’ Major Dick Winters, not that I was a hero, but that I served with heroes.
And that’s the only reason I miss the Army. Thank you to all of you who served, either with me, before me or after me. I know that some days it takes every ounce of energy just to get to formation in the morning, and I thank you for doing that for me. And I know that you hate being lumped together and called heroes, but you did what 99% of the American population wouldn’t do, you stood in the breach when no one else would, and if that doesn’t make you a hero, I don’t know what hero means.