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We went on a 911 call last night to a lady that had fallen. I let my EMT partner run the call as it was well-within his scope of practice, and I was content to drive the ambulance to the hospital. Sitting next to me during the 10-minute drive was the patient's brother, an older African American man who struck me as being both very pleasant and very supportive of his sister.
A conversation ensued and I discovered that the gentleman had spent over 15-years working for the U.S. Postal Service, however prior to that he had retired from the U.S. Army after twenty years of military service; that was our common link and became the subject of a short conversation.
What struck me was that my new friend didn't wear his military service nor his time spent in Vietnam on his sleeve. He confessed that it was his goal when he retired to leave that part of his life behind and to look forward to other new adventures and opportunities. My friend did not want to be one of those retirees that spent the remainder of his life in the VFW reliving his past; identifying and labeling himself as a veteran for all to see. He believed that if he did so his entire identity as a person would be contingent on something that he had done many, many years ago and not on who he was today.
I listened to the wisdom of this man seated next to me in the shadows of the ambulance, and it was as if he were speaking for me as well. Like him, it was my fervent wish when I left the military; no U.S. Army Retiree baseball caps, no veterans license plates. It was my life then and now it's not. It's that simple.
This is not to say that people should not be justifiably proud of their accomplishments in life, but don't let them become your sole identity. We're all so much more than what we did in the past. A better measure may be what we are doing right now.