On September 11, 2001, we all saw the world change before our eyes. The tragic events of that day propelled many Americans to serve our country through a difficult time. In the spring of 2002, I was admitted to West Point to serve the best way I knew how – by helping to lead America’s sons and daughters through this time of conflict.
Immediately after West Point I received the command post of a second lieutenant in the Army Infantry. Upon arriving in Baghdad, it was clear that the cultural and language differences between our peoples were prohibiting us from truly comprehending one another. How could we succeed if we didn’t understand?
I was inspired by these differences – and by the need to find common ground – to join the United States Special Forces. The challenge of learning a language, understanding cultural norms and then having the opportunity to use those skills and understandings in a way that could advance our relationships and our strategic relations energized me. It was this opportunity – the opportunity to build a bridge between humans of various backgrounds, to empathize with one another, to see the world from each other’s perspectives – that showcased what I had been led to serve for.
After more than a decade as a Green Beret Officer, it was time for a new chapter. I knew that whatever the future held, I wanted to serve our country in a way that would broaden my perspectives once again. I sought to embrace my curiosity of the vast cultures and differences that still exist within our own country – and realized that Boston couldn’t be a better fit for the challenge. Boston is a city drastically different than the small Midwest town I grew up in – and is worlds away from the time I spent in Iraq – but turned out to be exactly the change I needed. A change that has allowed me to serve our great nation in other ways. An opportunity to work with people from varied backgrounds and focus on our people’s commonalities rather than our differences – as I believe that is what makes America so great.
Veterans Day is a day for us all to recognize that we are truly a nation of volunteers. Volunteers who stand up to protect, teach and support one another – however possible. Today, we all need to remember and give thanks to those that serve our fellow Americans – and do so each and every day – whether they’re serving in the military or serving as teachers, police, firefighters, doctors or one of many other important roles.
As Americans, we all have the ability and the responsibility to serve each other the best way we know how – and that’s what makes our nation so exceptional.