Why do we serve in the military?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Daniel Gernert
  • 85th Flying Training Squadron commander
Many have asked me the question over the years, "Why do you serve in the military?" With an open question like that I typically didn't have time to give them a proper answer. I would like to take the time now to elaborate on a few thoughts I have collected about the subject of service and what it means to me.

I grew up on a farm in northwest Ohio and thoroughly enjoyed the distinct four seasons. I was more than happy to remain at this one address up through the time I left for college. The background of growing up in a rural area provided a solid foundation that got me where I am today, proudly serving in the U.S. Air Force.

I soon realized how much we have been given in this country and how fortunate we are to call the United States home. I loved to listen to my father and his brothers and sister as they told stories about how things were as they grew up. Tales of how they made it through the Great Depression and how people came together to help each other became a part of who I wanted to be. They told me about living through World War II and the sacrifices that were made by all to ensure our military had what it needed to win that war. Most of all, however, the stories taught me what it meant to be an American, living in a land that holds endless opportunity for any willing to pursue it.

Growing up with this background made my decision to serve very clear. My thoughts focused on how very much I had been given and the choice, rather the duty, to serve this nation was obvious.

I serve because I want to give back a small portion of what I have been given. I want my children to know what it means to live in the "land of the free" and the "home of the brave." I want others to realize the tremendous honor they have to live in a country based on the highest ideals man has ever seen. It is my constant hope and desire that others will realize what a privilege it is to be an American and take steps to serve and protect the very freedoms upon which this nation was founded.

There are men and women from every background and every walk of life who have had to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to this great nation. They knew the price of freedom was quite high and yet were willing to put their lives on the line for something that mattered more than self. That is the very essence of what makes us a great nation. As long as we have warriors ready to live and die for the ideals that America stands for, we will continue to be the greatest nation that has ever existed on this planet. I, for one, intend to honor the memory of those who have paid the ultimate price by doing everything I can to uphold the values and ideals we hold dear in this nation and to instill them in my children.

Our very existence as a great nation depends on how well we transmit these values and ideals to the following generations. This is a daunting task for every American and one we need to take seriously. The message of a shining city on a hill that we would like our children to see is being replaced with a far different and very harmful message. Just look at what we are faced with each day on the television and radio and in newspapers and magazines. These and other forms of daily contact bombard us with images that in many cases do not reflect our values. We have a responsibility to stand up for what we know to be true and right and to make sure our children inherit the same promise we have been given.

Freedom is not free. The emotion generated by simply stating those words is almost more than I can bear. It is the reason a tear rolls down my cheek almost every time our National Anthem is played. I stand in awe of the heroic men and women of the United States military who serve a grateful nation in thousands of locations around the world. I am proud to be an American living in a land that provides the brightest beacon of hope and freedom in the world. I certainly intend to see that beacon continue to shine brightly for years to come.

Any questions about why we serve?