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I’m talking to you. Yes, you. The one reading this on your phone on the toilet.
Have you ever thought about what it really means to be an American? Have you ever counted up all the privileges you enjoy? The right to do and say whatever the hell you want. The freedom to live your own life, pursue your own happiness in any way that you choose. The power to get drunk on a rooftop on a warm summer night and not owe anyone a damn thing?
All your life — and especially around this time of the year — you’ve probably heard about how good men fought and died for you to live these freedoms. You’ve been told to give thanks to these people and their sacrifices and to always hold them in your heart.
I’m here to tell you that’s not good enough anymore. You’re like those people on Facebook who comment “Thoughts and prayers!” or change their profile picture to some stupid overlay for a couple of days. Good thoughts without action mean very little.
You were put here on this earth, in this country, in that body. You’re alive right now. That means you have the power to do something positive. To give back. To serve your country.
If you’re a man reading this, you’re already likely signed up for selective service and are liable to be called to defend your country at any time. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about taking a more active part in volunteering to serve. There’s a lot of good arguments out there for compulsory military/community service, and the children (both male and female) of many other countries have mandatory terms of service for around a year after they turn 18. People I know from some of these countries have reported the experience to be incredibly positive and enriching because it gave them a real opportunity to feel invested and connected to their nation. Also, sometimes the perks aren’t half bad.
How many people do you see creeping around the internet with views on politics or our culture that have never in their lives done anything to earn the right to hold that opinion? How many young people in this country would be better off if they had to give back?
And yet, in our country, the fact that we have to volunteer to serve makes our commitment far greater and more meaningful.
I’m not saying that you should all run down to a recruiting office and enlist. I’m more than aware that the military doesn’t fit into everyone’s life plan or career. But you’d be surprised how many options there are to serve your country once you seek them out.
For health professionals like doctors, nurses, and EMTs, the military has programs that allow you to practice your profession almost exactly the same as if you were a civilian, but in service to your country. Plus there’s the added benefit of being able to graduate from extremely expensive schools debt free. School for service.
Lawyers, you have a route, too.
In any career, you can become a reservist training, earning tuition assistance and a small monthly stipend based on drilling one weekend a month. In exchange, you also get access to many of the same benefits as active duty and you can serve without going full time.
You can also choose to join the National Guard and focus closer to home, although guard units can deploy overseas as well.
You don’t have to choose military service to serve your country either. You can join Americorps or commit yourself to various community service programs around the country.
My point being that as a citizen of this great nation — when you celebrate Independence Day or Memorial Day, or Veterans Day or whatever — don’t just think about what you have been given. Think about what you can give back.
Serve your country..