Growing up a military brat: A reflection on Catholics in the military
Most people take note of Veterans Day because they either get the day off or enjoy an easier commute to work. For me, when the day rolls around every November, I make a mental not to call my dad, my grandfather, my mom, and my sister. These are just the immediate members of my family who have served in the Armed Forces. I have lots of cousins (mostly men, but one of my female cousins is also in the military) and uncles who've served or are still serving in the Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
I often wonder if other Catholic families have so many family members in the military. It's interesting, given the teachings on what constitutes a just war, that my more "die-hard" Catholic relatives tend to be the most pro-military. It's not that I'm anti the U.S. military; in what my father would call my more "bleeding heart" circles of friends, I tend to be the one defending our country's line of defense. It provided me and my family with food on the table, a roof over our heads, and incredible health care. (And there are even more benefits that I am still eligible to enjoy thanks to having two parents who retired from the Air Force.) But I've also had to stand and listen awkwardly to a stories of injustice about the place I was born, Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.
I've concluded that my family, whether knowingly or not, has such a close relationship with the U.S. military, not simply because they are more patriotic than other families, but because it has helped so many of my relatives move into the middle class. Unlike in the families of most of my peers, it's those my generation, not the one previous, who are the first college graduates and there are more cousins who didn't go to college than those who did.
This is one of the things I often think about on Veterans Day, how many of the people who enlist in the armed forces do it not out of a burning patriotism (although I don't doubt their love of country) but out of a desire to make a better life or themselves and their families. I only wish that they didn't have to put themselves in harms way in order to do so.