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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why do We Serve?

When I get the chance to sit down with a soldier and really talk, I almost always ask them why they entered into military service.  I usually get answers in one of these categories: they have a career goal but need money for education; they have a close family member who has served, and they want to carry on the tradition; they are looking for adventure and like the idea of going to exotic places to serve.  In my case, there was more than just a single answer, and the desire to join the Army encompassed the need for education funds, upholding a family tradition AND the desire for adventure.

Medical education is not cheap, and the costs are rising by the year - yet the income of most physicians has been stagnant for the past decade.  That makes paying off huge educational loans a real challenge.  Back in 1985, I didn't really have a plan B regarding how I would manage the medical school bills, but the Army Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) stepped in to help.  I had to have my letter of acceptance from an accredited US medical school in hand before I could apply for the program, and once I received that notification of approval, I was on my way.  I had NO idea what a ride it would be, but looking back, I wouldn't change a thing.  More on that in a future blog post.

The family tradition piece comes from my father, a WWII-era veteran.  He enlisted in the Army as soon as he could after high school, and although he never got a chance to serve overseas, his heart was clearly on the battlefield.  He was a typical teenager in the 30's - jobs were hard to come by, and military service was clearly an option for many to consider even before America entered the war. With basic training completed, my dad was sent to Camp Murphy in Florida for Signal Corps specialty training in radar - he always did love electronic gadgets.  It was at West Palm Beach that the reality of the war hit home.  Here is an excerpt from his memoir:
   
"One night as I walked down the beach with a friend we saw a huge flash of light out on the ocean. This was followed by the sound of a huge explosion. We knew at once that a German U boat, many of which prowled these waters, had scored a hit."
With the attack on Pearl Harbor, many raced to to join up in all branches of service, and clearly there was a similar rush after 911.  We continue to be a nation at war with over ten years in Afghanistan and nearly that many in Iraq under the belt.  Men and women with a desire to serve are an ongoing need, and even though there are potential risks to military service, the benefits are clearly there.
The adventure aspect of my why-I-joined-the-Army story is complicated.  I could have chosen to go to Airborne School, but I didn't.  I could have been a Flight Surgeon, but I wasn't.  I might have opted to go to Somalia in the place of one of my OBGYN colleagues in the era of "blackhawk down" - but I stayed home.  So where was I getting my adventure fix?  Just delivering babies and doing surgeries turned out to be plenty of adventure for me, and I had all I could handle!  Still, it is nice to know that many of these options to serve remain open to me even 22 years into my career.  I can still go to Airborne School, Flight Surgeon training or Afghanistan - and maybe I will.  I did appreciate the opportunity to serve in Iraq in 2008, and soon, I will begin a tour in Kuwait to round out the year - the service to my fellow soldiers and fellow Americans goes on - they are my "why."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing sis - will be praying for you whilst in Kuwait.

    Hey, you are so cute in that early enlistment pic, (^; and Dad is a good looking guy - nice choice of photos.

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