I’m a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. I chose to join the Coast Guard because I knew I’d have little chance of being stationed overseas. I have a distinct love for traveling, but the prospect of being a newly minted 18 year-old stuck on the soil of another continent seemed like an ill fit. Additionally, my love for the ocean made the Coast Guard a natural fit for me.
But that’s as selfish as the story of my service gets. I enlisted in September of 2000 and served until August of 2004. I was enlisted on the morning of September 11th, and watched the first bombs drop on Iraq from LORAN (Long Range) Station St. Paul in the center of the Bering Sea in Alaska. In the last year, I volunteered for several months at the USC School of Social Work Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families to identify challenges that veterans face when finding services in Orange County.
I know I could have joined the Marine Corps, or the Army, or the Navy, or even the Air Force, and I would have put myself in a more vulnerable position had I done so (granted, we did face some pretty hairy situations on our ship).
I have survivor’s guilt.
Countless others in my generation gave everything they could, and others gave more blood, and more sweat than I, and continue to give tears many years after their deployments have ended. For that, I am forever grateful and feel guilty for not doing the same.