The holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family and eat, drink, exchange gifts and talk. During one of my own holiday gatherings, one particular conversation started with a comment from a middle-aged relative who stated: "I just did not have what it took to serve in the military -- much less special ops." This was coming from a successful businessman who loves America and is about as patriotic as anyone I know. I disagreed with him and said he probably did have what it took but just did not know it and asked, "What do you think it takes to serve in the military, any branch, any job?"
This is where the list started to grow and comes from a combination of civilians and veterans who were in the room. It is an interesting combination and helped to draw the bridge between civilian family and friends and the military members they support. Combined with some time-honored military mottos, here is what was developed on what it takes to serve:
Honor, courage and commitment -- U.S. Navy: Commitment to something other than yourself is an absolute must as you will be overworked and underpaid, just like every other public servant in our country (police, fire, EMT, teachers, etc.). There are also different levels of commitment. There is a minimum level to start your military career and serve your obligation. There is a second level to make the military a career and serve 20-plus years in uniform.
Duty. Honor. Country -- U.S. Army: There's that word again: honor. You have to honor your country, its traditions, its people, its fallen and its freedoms. It will be your duty to protect them. You also have to have honor. In the business of people doing dangerous things all over the world, having the ability to communicate truthfully and objectively will support the mission up and down the chain of command.
Ready to lead, ready to follow, never quit -- from the U.S. Navy SEAL creed: You have to follow orders and understand that there are people you are working for who see a bigger picture than you. But you have to realize that the job -- no matter how insignificant you may think it is -- is part of a more intricate mission. Being a team player is critical to leading and following.
Freedom -- won by the sacrifice of many -- You have to be willing to sacrifice many things, and most importantly, it could be your life. Your daily job will require sacrifices in time with family, friends, your spouse and your kids, and you also will not be able to live, work, eat, change jobs or travel normally as well when permanently stationed or deployed with your unit. These "little things" are some of the many things that get taken during your time.
Army Strong -- You do have to be fitter than your average contemporaries. Running, swimming, calisthenics, rucking and lifting are required at varying levels of intensity, depending upon your military specialty. This is a military requirement, and there are standards to uphold. If you cannot uphold them or fail to meet them, you can lose your job or not be hired. If you are not comfortable with living up to a unit's standards of fitness, military bearing, grooming and wearing of the uniform, you might find the military more than you can handle.
De Oppresso Liber -- to free from oppression -- U.S. Army Special Forces: A willingness to risk your life in the pursuit of liberty for others is a character trait embedded in our military members. It is why the U.S. military exists. There is evil in this world, and often the only thing that stands between an oppressed society and a free society is a brave soldier standing guard ready to do what must be done to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Be the sheepdog.
There is something special about those who choose to serve their country. This list features all of the same reasons why my grandfathers served in World War II and should be the same reasons why our volunteer military are signing up today. Veterans have every right to be proud of their service as veterans are truly the one percenters who continue to fight for our society's safety. The Marines had it right with their slogan: The Few, The Proud, the Marines.
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Stew Smith is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL Lieutenant, and author of several military, police, and firefighter fitness training/testing books such as Tactical Fitness, Maximum Fitness, The SWAT Workout, Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and more.