When I was 12 years old, I decided that I would go in the Marine Corps when I turned 18, and for a year or two I believed that was what I would do.
By the time I was 18, however, college seemed like a much more realistic and opportune path for me, so that's what I did. It's not a decision I regret, but it is one I think about occasionally, wondering how life would be different had I chosen the military over school.
Flash forward a couple of decades and someone in my charge is in the same situation. My stepson Dalton has talked about becoming a Marine since he was about 14. He's about to turn 18, and though he's thought about college, I think the plan is still one of military service. He's met with a recruiter and taken a test. The next step is signing on the dotted line.
It's a subject of both pride and parental fear in my house. I have told him if he graduates boot camp I will sit in the front row, and I don't care if I have to move a general out of the way to do so. At the same time, his mother doesn't care to be reminded of some of the places he could end up afterward. Honestly, I don't like thinking about it either. But regardless of the potential consequences, I will be proud and supportive of whatever decision he makes.
That decision to serve has been made by many thousands of folks over the long history of this country. On this Veterans Day, there are several ways you can be supportive of the service and sacrifice of your fellow countrymen.
-- Help a wounded veteran or service member in need. Sentinels of Freedom Gwinnett is an organization dedicated to helping wounded veterans become self-sufficient. To make a donation or get involved, go to www.sofgwinnett.org.
-- Let those who are still serving know you're thinking of them. Send a card through the Red Cross to let service members know you appreciate what they're doing. Mail cards to:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD
-- Put a face with a name. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is attempting to collect a photograph of every person whose name appears on the Vietnam Wall. More than 58,000 people died during that war. You can donate a photo if you're a friend or family member of someone who gave their life in Vietnam. You can also help by researching casualties in your area and tracking down family members. Go to vvmf.org/thewall for more information.
-- Teach a child. Offer to take your child or a school group on a tour of the Gwinnett Veterans Memorial Museum so they can learn about the sacrifices our veterans make. The museum is located in the old courthouse on the Lawrenceville Square and admission is free.
These are just a handful of ways you can show your support. It doesn't matter what you choose to do, just do something.
After all, they did something for you.
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.