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I have no memory of my childhood at Navy bases in the North or my first time in the West. But I recall foreign Far East tropical islands and large ships. Hot, with villages and laborers and enclaves, and yet I saw no differences. Then again to ports in California and bases in Louisiana we moved. And memories formed. Again it was hot, villages, multitudes of people and now schooling. Yet I saw no differences.
Then to Washington and Maryland and visits to New York: it was hot, but also cold. I hate the cold. In school I noticed I talked differently, prayed differently, dressed differently and to some looked differently. But after playing the same we saw no differences. There were troubled times while in D.C. — riots and protests and demonstrations. Yet differences melded into a conscious and we became the same.
Now it was my turn to don a uniform. In basic training I roomed with people I first saw as different in speech, experience, athleticism, acumen and color. But after the first "hazings" we saw no differences. In time we were no different and remain bonded.
In the Army, at home and abroad and at war, it was again a view of life in enclaves and at large. It was hot and cold. I hate the cold. I noticed differences: others not like us. We love life, we laugh and among ourselves there were no differences; we were bonded. The "others" dwelt upon differences and sought unto themselves disdain personified. Yet we sought them out to bring them in.
These experiences and perspectives are brought forward to my work in labor relations. At work we two sides argue, we laugh, we disagree and we join together. We know we are, and we work to be, one in values and dreams and purpose. This is what service as a child, a soldier and an aging adult has brought me. It is what I share and it is what veterans and their families share. As Americans, while we have our differences, we are no different. Service unites. I still hate the cold.