My father served in the Air Force; I grew up an Air Force brat, a fish out of water, at the schools I attended...at first because I was that brat, and then because I was me...shy, always feeling late to the party and uncomfortable because I didn't get the inside jokes.

When I got to college, I joined ROTC. I have no idea why, now, looking back, but I was one of two girls in ROTC. I wanted to fit in somewhere...that was as close as I could get. And then I joined the Army Reserves.

Talk about a fish out of water, and yet...the history, the connections--it might have been a pretty horrendous experience, but it was one steeped in familiarity.

I met Rick at AIT, where he was retraining to be a terrain analyst and I was learning to be a printing press operator.

The military life is instant community for the rest of your life. Isn't that something for a person who's always felt out of place?

It doesn't matter what branch of service, it doesn't matter when you served or for how long. You have found a place where you will never be the fish out of water.

According to Wikipedia, "From the U.S.'s establishment to September 2012, 40 million Americans have served in the United States Armed Forces."

That's a lot of people sharing a common thread, a common experience, a bond that survives across generations. It's kinship at its finest.

We are connected, not just by the commonality of service to ideals like freedom and patriotism and honor and duty, but by the loss of those we served beside who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The news may have decided Afghanistan and Iraq were no longer newsworthy, but those of us who are connected to the military keep our ears to the ground. We pause when we learn of new losses, we take a moment to think of the families left behind, the fellow soldiers who grieve the loss of the men and women they served next to.

We count our blessings each and every day and know that those blessings are because of the men and women who stood together and took a solemn oath and then had the courage and conviction to carry it out.

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

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