Being a Veteran

Reflection given by Barton Burnett, Upper School Science and Engineering


Good morning! Believe it or not you are looking at what is probably one of the smallest minority groups at ESD. I am one of only two veterans in our entire school that I am aware of. The other veteran is from Canada and teaches in middle-school. So while I cannot speak for all veterans I can speak as a veteran.

Veterans Day is November 11th which this year is a Sunday.  I asked to speak to everyone in Chapel today as we anticipate this observance. In doing so I want to help you better understand what a veteran is so that you will realize something very special and very important. Just like all of us at ESD, every person currently serving in the military or who has been honorably discharged from the service are unique, special, individuals.

In fact the US Military is even far more diversified than ESD. The US Military contains every racial/ethnic/economic/political/sexual orientation/religious group you can possibly imagine and maybe even more. Just like any group of human beings, the diversity of  the US Military does not mean everyone always gets along. When we do not get along it is very seldom for religious or racial issues. It has to do with the fact we are all human and as fellow human beings we can get on each other’s nerves and yes those disagreements can get big.

With that being said though, why is it then that no one in the US Military EVER worries about whether or not the man or woman serving next to them will let them down in a crunch? (Pause) That’s because we all know we belong to something bigger than ourselves and our petty little differences really do not matter that much. Because, we have sworn an OATH. (Play audio of )  

What this oath says is that we swear to defend a set of LAWS as established by the Constitution of the United States of America from enemies foreign and domestic. That means that while we are allowed to have our own thoughts and political/religious beliefs our only concern as a group is dealing with the protection of the Constitution and following the orders of the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States no matter what our politics are. You see ALL Presidents eventually leave office one day no matter who they are. The US Military though remains and ensures the Constitution is safe no matter who holds the highest office. So our Constitutional freedoms remain. Including the freedom to say how much we as civilians might distrust those in  government leadership for whatever reason we may have. Thanks to the US Military you and I always have the right to disagree.

This commitment is the bond all veterans have whether they are conscious of it or not. We are all there to defend something special that unites us. You see for me this really hit deeply when I had to do a maintenance check on a radar system while serving in the Navy deployed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. My ship weighed in at about roughly close to 10,000 tons and the radar dish was about 75 feet in the air and above the water. So not only did I have to wear a safety harness (BTW Did I mention to this day I am scared of heights?) but I had to have another sailor safety check my gear and hold the safety line. This would be the only person that would keep me from falling if something went wrong. The guy that I drew as my safety was someone I thought was a complete jerk and we HHHAAATTTEEDDD each other! As we geared up, I was not happy trust me. As I started to move off the platform I looked at him as he very seriously dug in and grasped my safety line. His eyes changed and went very professional. He looked at me saw my face grinned and said. “Do not worry you’re still a jerk. Promise we will go back to normal and you will still be a jerk to me.” My reply was somewhat eloquent I thought at that time. “Hey you’re the jerk!”

Know what? We still could not stand each other once we finished that job. But as time passed, I ended up helping him when he got busted for substance abuse while on duty. I made sure he got into drug abuse counseling, was there when he graduated from it, and was able to see him keep his career.

So yes, something I miss a lot about my time in the Navy is knowing that despite not always getting along, we always had each others backs.

I stand before you as a Veteran. Veterans all have a unique experience and my story is just one of millions. We don’t all share our stories. We all have our own story that reveals so much about our commitment, loyalty, service, and love for this nation we all share. I am honored to this day that my best friend in high school, who was a tank platoon commander during Desert Storm told me his nightmares under the condition I will tell no one else about them. To this day I am the only in this world that carries his story.

I loved the travel the Navy allowed for me. I have literally seen the world, its places, its people, its cultures. And I was able to do that all with the men and women I served with. We talk about being made in the image of a loving God. I have seen that through my service in the many diverse ways the human family exists.

Keep our military and veterans in your prayers.

Listen to their stories.

Honor their oath as they serve our nation here and abroad.

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