When I was a teenager, I was a pacifist, your typical "make love not war" type of person who opposed the armed forces, holding up my two fingers for the peace symbol. At the time I didn't realize even soldiers want peace. They would rather be home with their families instead of facing death in some foreign country. Now it seems like a "duh" kind of thing, but back then I was under the impression that only alpha male tough guy bullies got into the armed forces. In one aspect I was right: they ARE tough guys. You have to be in order to endure that lifestyle. In any event, my grandfather was a WWII vet, reaching the rank of Sergeant. My uncle went to Vietnam, and he was a POW. My uncle represented to me everything I could not stand about the military: not just the fact that he was strict, but that he seemed narrow-minded. There is nothing wrong with being disciplined, but I didn't see why it meant he had to look down his nose at me simply because I was into things that he didn't understand. My grandfather died when I was in seventh grade. My uncle is still around, but he lives nowhere near me. He came back to New York when my grandmother died. And before he went back home, this tough guy...this upright, disciplined, moral compass military man, saw the look of sadness in my eyes and said, "It'll get better, bud." And he actually HUGGED me good bye. (Months later I mentioned this to his daughter, my cousin, and she said, "Yeah, he has softened in his old age.") Now I see things with this new perspective, as I said above. I'm sure there are a few maniacs in the armed forces who joined because they are bloodthirsty. All we can hope is that the military psych tests weed them out! It's too late for me to ask either my grandfather or my uncle what they experienced, not in a sick "gimme all the gory details way," but in an attempt to understand what they went through...even though I'm pretty sure the only way to understand would be to have done it myself. They don't WANT to go overseas and kill people, but they sign up for it because it's the right thing to do. Like Demi Moore said in A FEW GOOD MEN, "...they stand on a wall, and they say, 'No one's going to hurt you tonight, not on MY watch.'" I wish my grandfather were still here for me to talk to. I wish this attitude had come along when I was younger. It didn't, and there is nothing I can do about that...except go to his grave and salute him. As for my uncle...well, sometimes there are things you don't need to verbalize. That one gesture of his changed our entire relationship, for the better. I salute him, and everyone who has served.