Keeping the darkness at bay… Thank you, men and women who serve.

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I write military, survivalist fiction, yet I have never worn the uniform. My deepest gratitude goes out to those men and women with the guts to go to the darkest places in the world, braving gunfire and bombs, blazing heat and freezing cold, and separation from loved ones. You folks are keeping our country safe, while I’m sitting at home in front of a laptop in my pajamas.

I almost joined the military twice. The first time was back in college. I took the ASFAB, and I was gung-ho. I thought it would be a great way to gain some discipline and pay for college. I ended up joining (this is really sad) because my girlfriend was going to go through basic with me, and then onto MP school. She didn’t meet the height requirement. The recruiter, who was a genuinely nice man, competent and I’m guessing an outstanding soldier, slayed me with the look of disappointment when I told him I was backing out.

The second time I almost joined was about a week after 9-11. I’d been living in Nashville, and until then believed that evil was more of a concoction by the military industrial complex than a reality which would come stalking U.S. citizens here at home. When the towers fell, I wept. I was stunned by this evidence of evil unchecked, and it was a feeling of violation that I think almost every American felt. I wanted to do something about it. I felt I should act.

I didn’t, though. I thought about it and I made some phone calls, and one day I wandered into a Marine Corps recruiting office. I was already past thirty, and the guys looked at me like I was nuts. They took me about as seriously as I did, I guess. It was justified, because I did not have the balls to go ahead and enlist.

I like to think I’m tougher than I actually am. When I see American citizens getting beheaded on the news by these ISIS lunatics, I think, okay, lets go to war. Let’s blow them off the map, because that kind of evil has to be stopped.

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But that’s easy for me to say and decide, when I’ve got nothing at stake. I don’t have a child ready to ship out, a brother waiting on his third deployment. I’m not writing a will and a note to leave for my wife in the event of my death someplace in the sand.

I told my wife last week that if I were younger, I’d enlist right now, being outraged at the atrocities taking place in the Middle East. I realized later what a stupid thing to say that was. I’m angry, but I’m not that guy, the soldier on the wall while the enemy storms the gates. I write about heroes, but I am not one.

So it is with great humility I say thanks to all of you who have the intestinal fortitude to risk your lives for your country. I am in your debt. You folks are heroes.

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