"I was that which others did not want to be. I went where others feared to go. And did what others failed to do. I asked nothing from those who gave nothing, and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness, should I fail. I have seen the face of terror, felt the cold sting of fear, and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment of love. I have cried, pained and hoped, but most of all I have lived times others would say were best forgotten. At least someday I will be able to say I was proud of what I was!" - An Airborne Soldier
I've received and given a lot of advice about military careers over the years. Lately, I've been working with some young men and women to ensure that they make the right choices and to keep the recruiters honest...although, the truth is that a lot of times the young men don't necessarily tell their parents the truth about why they decided on Infantry rather than a combat support or service support job.
One lesson I learned (and I think I've written about here far too many times for my own liking) is that you need to savor the moments with your family and friends. Those times when you're laughing so hard at Sergeant so-and-so's behavior in the orderly room (*cough* affectionately known at Uncle Fester) or the time during training when a hyper-motivated "Knox-ious" dove into his foxhole/fighting position headfirst to discover a raccoon that had taken up residence and was very pissed off at the intruder (the entire company was laughing at that one) or when you're at the NCO Club enjoying a beer during one of the best nights of summer or at your best friend's wedding or just hanging out with people that you care about - those are the moments to forge into memories.
And, when you're so miserable - cold, wet, tired, and hungry - and your fire team cracks up at how miserable you all are...When your commander decides to have you all jump out of a USAF aircraft because there's a break in the clouds, knowing full well that by the time your chute deploys the storms will be overhead and angry, dammit. That big storm meant hitting trees, being dragged across railroad tracks, probably landing backwards and getting the wind knocked out of you, etc. When there are more bugs on you than off...I could go on and on. Embracing the suck won't sound fun then, but you'll cherish the bond of collective suffering you all went through. Laugh about it, but hold on to those times.
Because, sadly, they might be all that you will have. Chances are, during these times, that the group of people that you hold dear will be smaller in a few years. My band of brothers certainly has a few absent companions now.
And so has Rob's at the Sniper Eye. (must read)
Take time to live and remember.