Alex is back from his deployment in Qatar and I went to pick him up in Woodstock. It was not a very big event, but it very moving to see all the families waiting for their soldier to come home. There were lots of little kid probably too young to remember their fathers (a year is along time in a young life) and some so young that they were meeting the old man for the first time.
I am proud that Alex chose to join the Virginia National Guard and then volunteer for deployment overseas. The citizen solider is a key factor in a functioning democracy and one of the duties of citizenship in America is the willingness to serve if needed. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are involved with this today.
Beyond the patriotic responsibility, the Guard is a good deal. Alex gets his insurance through the Guard and the Guard gives him TSP to save for retirement. Because of his deployment, he earned help with tuition and job search, and he gets veteran preference in Federal jobs. I think the experience has been good for his character. Responsibility and discipline are useful traits for any young person.
The basis of civilization is not generosity; it is reciprocity. It is better if both sides give something and get something. The military is good way to do this with government benefits.
When we consider the prosperity in America after World War II, we often miss the elephant in the room. Because of the war, millions of Americans had experience with the military, where they learned skills and discipline and where they made a variety of contacts that helped them build the businesses that built America.
I am proud that Alex did the right thing. I am glad that his deployment was uneventful. He seems to have used the “gift of time” well. He read lots of books and took some useful online courses. He was a good man before; he is even a better one now.