The Decision to Serve

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Officer X

This Memorial Day weekend, I took time to reflect on my service. It’s an understatement to say times are difficult for America’s troops. Still, I can’t help but consider myself truly lucky to have the honor to serve in the United States military. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

I remember standing at the waters edge at Cape Canaveral, FL, with the ground physically shaking beneath my feet. I watched the Space Shuttle Discovery leave this planet with awe, and only one thought on my mind: I want to do that.

Fast forward over a decade. I was that same little boy, sitting in a college dorm room with a military contract in my hand, feeling as small as I did that day watching the shuttle. It was undoubtedly the biggest decision of my life.

It meant my life from that day on wouldn’t be about me, but something bigger. I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with my life if it was dedicated to money. I wanted to have a positive impact on the world, and help people other than just myself. It also meant my life would be a little less comfortable. Less safe. I would have to face the fact that I might get shot at. I would be removed from my comfort zone to any corner of the world. Sacrifice was the word, and I was willing to give of myself.

I couldn’t tell you for how long – all I know is I hesitated before signing my name. I wasn’t terribly worried about the factors listed above. The paragraph about homosexual conduct had me more concerned. I knew at the time I was at least interested in other men, but I thought it might still be possible to find a nice girl to settle down with. I knew what I was doing in that I would be denying part of who I am in order to take this opportunity to serve. I just didn’t know how much of a toll it would take on me to salute smartly and deny part of who I am.

There are men and women who have given their lives for our freedom. The right to my sexual orientation is a small price to pay in comparison. The final decision to sign the contract was an easy one. Fighting for freedom isn’t about me. It’s about the people I care about who I surround myself with: my family at home, my friends, my brothers and sisters in arms, and now my boyfriend. Although I don’t get to see them every day, I do it for them. They make the sacrifices worth it.

– On Twitter @TIMEOfficerX