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Military Heroes Month: The Decision to Serve

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Albert Schweitzer once said, “I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know—the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

As a proud American, I have always held a special place in my heart for those who choose to serve our country.  Whether it was with a hug, a card, a care package, or a meal, my parents ingrained in me the importance of saying thank you to those who lay it all on the line.  However, it wasn’t until my 19-year-old brother enlisted in the Army, that I began to realize the depth of the choice that our servicemen and women make.

The false perception of service I’d held in my head vanished as I went three months without hearing his voice.  As Thanksgiving came and passed, and I realized that he wasn’t going to walk through the door and shout, “Surprise!,” I came to understand that Military Service meant far greater than I had ever known.  Whether he was digging a hole in the ground for shelter, piling dirt beneath his head for a pillow, staying up for hours on end and then running miles in the rain, or standing at attention for so long in the sun that sweat burned and dripped into his eyes—he continued to serve.  

Kati and her Brother

It was about 18 months ago.  I was dressed in a white wedding gown, hugging my brother goodbye because he was leaving for boot camp the next day. As I struggled to let him go, I asked him to explain to me why he chose to serve. With a smile on his face he said, “If my decision to serve gives a husband the chance to hold his wife another day, a father the opportunity to see his first born child, or a mom the ability to make it home for her son’s graduation, then I would make the decision to go every single time.”

There is a calling that they have answered and shoes that they have promised to fill.  We can rest easier and dream sweeter because we know that they have sought and found how to serve—for OUR Freedom.  As we enter this season as Thanksgiving, remember those who serve, remember our Military Heroes.

Patriotism runs deep at Southwest Airlines, and we are proud of all those who serve, especially the nearly 5,800 Active Duty, Reservists, and Veterans who are part of the Southwest Family.  In celebration of Military Heroes Month in November, you’ll hear about and read blogs about service, how we honor the military, the sacrifice these heroes make, and how we celebrate the brave who fight for our Freedoms. Who’s your hero?  How do you appreciate the military?  Share your story by commenting below.

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My nine-year old daughter wrote this essay: VETERANʼS DAY Olivia Hawkins October 26, 2012 Veteranʼs Day is an important day for me and my family. Most people do not understand what Veteranʼs Day is about. They think it is just another holiday. They do not take it seriously. I would like more people to realize how important it is. Veteranʼs Day is a day that we honor all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served in combat. It is a day we also honor their families. The families of Veterans make big sacrifices. I think that people would understand this better if they tried putting themselves in my shoes. I am the daughter of a Veteran. My father is in the Army. He has been deployed three times since I was born. He is deployed right now in Afghanistan. I have to do without him for almost a year. I miss him every day, but especially on my birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Fatherʼs Day. Every night at supper, his chair is empty. If something breaks, he is not here to fix it. He is not here to be at my school events. He wonʼt be here to hang the Christmas lights. He wonʼt be here to carve pumpkins. He is not here to do yardwork. He is not here if we have car trouble. He is not here to tell me goodnight. He is not here to be strong. My mother is alone, taking care of me and my sister. She has to do her job and run my fatherʼs business for him. My grandma helps out when she can, but she is nothing like my father. I wear a pin every day. My mom wears one, too. She gave it to me the day he left. They are called Blue Star pins. These pins are worn by immediate family members of military people who are currently serving in active duty combat. When these pins or flags have one star, it means that only one family member is deployed. When they have two stars, they have two family members deployed. Each star stands for one family member, so the number of stars on the pin or flag is the same number as the family members that are deployed. We also have a flag hanging on our front window that has the same symbol. It lets everyone who sees it know that my dad is deployed. We will take our Blue Star flag down and put our Blue Star pins away when my dad finally comes home. Until then, I wear it with pride. I honor Veteranʼs Day every year for all of these reasons but mainly because I respect our countryʼs heroes, and their families. These heroes that are fighting today are our fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, daughters, and sons. These heroes who have fought wars in the past are our grandfathers, grandmothers, and even our neighbors. Respecting these people is our duty as a loyal country. Honoring these people and their sacrifices is my job. I am the daughter of a hero. I am the daughter of a Veteran.