My wife and I have four children and their ages are 24, 22, 20, and 18. Our first three children are boys. The youngest is a girl.
A few years ago, Elliott, the oldest, came to his Mom and me just before his senior year in high school and asked if he could go to work during the school year. His friend, Nick, was working at The Island – a retirement community – waiting tables in its dining facility. Nick asked Elliott to join him, which my son thought was a great idea.
My immediate reply was no. I told Elliott that his time and energy would be better placed in studies – he wanted to be a family doctor. My reason was that almost any academic scholarship would equal or better the money gained through employment.
“Study, do not work,” were my last words to him.
What does my son do? He applies for and lands the job of busing tables at The Island.
I gave in.
Elliott loved the job, and in the months they worked together, Nick and Elliott talked about their future plans. Nick wanted to join the Army and my son thought that might work for him, too.
Nick enlisted. Elliott enlisted, too, as a medic.
Less than a year after high school graduation and 19 years of age, our son, after completing basic and medic training, was deployed to Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom – for 12 months.
Two months into the deployment he came home on a scheduled leave.
“Dad,” he said, “I’ve got something to tell you, but please don’t tell Mom.”
“OK,” I replied.
“In Iraq I have a very safe job. I work in the middle of a large camp (Camp Liberty) at an aide station. I can’t do that anymore. I won’t go to war and not be in the war.
Dad, I volunteered to go down range.” [Note: Down range, among its many definitions, means engaging the enemy.]
For the remainder of his first tour of duty, my son was down range from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week – with a few days rest here and there.
Sergeant Elliott Stewart fulfilled his commitment to the Army, and after two tours of duty in Iraq, he was honorably discharged, and now he is studying to be a doctor.
My son is a veteran.
As a veteran Elliott joins the ranks of the many men and women who have valiantly served our country and who we honor on Veterans’ Day. They are our heroes.
Thank you for your service.
God bless our veterans.