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Never pass up an opportunity to thank a soldier for their service to our country.

Serving your country on soil far away

Young soldier receives a change of plans.

According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, the United States had nearly 2.5 million active-duty and reserve U.S. military force personnel as of October 2019. If that number surprises you, it surprised me too. With that many people serving and the millions who have served through the years, it would be nearly impossible to find someone who does not currently know or has not known a person who has taken either the Oath of Enlistment (for enlisted) or the Oath of Office (for officers).

Not long after beginning to play guitar, I met Mike. He was a military veteran, made his living as a barber and lived just across the street from me in Memphis, Tenn., when I was growing up. Mike also played the fiddle. He was a short, wiry man with a confident gait. He never talked much about his time in the military, probably because he was too busy telling jokes while cutting someone's hair or playing music.

I will always, though, remember one story he shared with me. After enlisting in the Army and beginning boot camp, his sergeant called Mike into the office one day inquiring why he listed his hometown as Philadelphia, because the Army could find no records of him in that city.

Mike soon corrected the misinformation by stating he was from Philadelphia, Miss., not Philadelphia, Pa. The sergeant was less than amused.

Many of his friends said the Lord broke the mold when he made Mike. He passed away on Sept. 16, 2011 and was laid to rest at the West Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery.

Since that time, I have become friends with other veterans, active-duty personnel, and reservists. I never fail to thank them for their service. They all took one of the aforementioned oaths to defend the constitution and when called, they reported where they were assigned to serve.

One of the couples in my neighborhood has a son. While still in high school, he knew he wanted to join the military. He decided to attend the University of Tennessee and eventually became part of the Rocky Top Battalion. After his first year in college, he was one of only four students who earned a full scholarship and monthly stipend through the ROTC program. He received leadership, management, and communications training through the program. His parents saw him develop from a young boy, to a young man, and into a military officer.

After graduating, he spent some weekends participating in various training exercises, and eventually received orders assigning him to Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba.

Just after the Christmas holidays ended, the young officer received new orders. Because of the continuing unrest in the Middle East, he was reassigned to serve in that region. We all pray for him and his eventual safe return. Thank you for your service young man and Godspeed.

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