In 1985, I needed a job. I was a young, newly married electrical engineering student at the University of Nebraska. I had good grades, and the Navy was looking for capable young engineers, scientists and mathematicians for the Nuclear Power Officer Candidate Program. After a grueling selection process that included an interview with the 4-star admiral in charge of the entire Navy Nuclear Power program, I found myself taking an oath to support and defend the Constitution.
This week, we will celebrate Veterans Day – a time in which we honor the service of all men and women who have served or are serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Each of these individuals also took that oath. As a promise to the people of the U.S. and to each other, it was not one made lightly. Since 1973, the end of the last draft, all have taken this oath voluntarily. And, all have made sacrifices.
Some put their career on hold or suffered family separation. Many put their lives at risk on battlefields around the world, and too many made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives to defend our country and our freedom.
So then, why serve? The reasons are as varied as the people in the armed forces. Many serve out of patriotic duty, answering the call to arms during a time of crisis such as after the Pearl Harbor attack, or the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many join the military to learn a skill, build a career and make a difference. Like me, many just needed a job.
In the trenches and in the aftermath, the memories of serving run deep. Some are memories of lifelong brother or sisterhood. Others are memories of honor and courage, pain and trauma. Many are of lessons learned. There is always a hint of nostalgia for what was or could have been.
For as much as I went into the Navy determined to contribute to the greater good, I acknowledge with gratitude that I received so much in return for my service, including skills and knowledge – like training personnel to operate nuclear propulsion plants with the highest level of performance – that led to my first post-Navy job as an engineer at Cooper Nuclear Station. Eventually, these skills helped me become NPPD’s CEO. I am forever grateful for the people I served with and the lifelong education the Navy gave me.
Thanking veterans for their service this week is certainly a great way to honor them. But, go a step further. Ask them about their service. Every veteran has a story to tell, and every story is important. Visit a veterans home, and take time to show them you care.
Most importantly, know you don’t have to serve in the armed forces to help others. Support those in your family, school, house of worship or community. Get involved in our democracy. VOTE.
In my opinion, an educated and involved electorate is our best assurance this great experiment in freedom and democracy embodied in our Constitution will continue as a beacon of liberty for humankind. What better way is there to express gratitude for our veterans?
NPPD is proud to employ more than 123 veterans who reside in communities throughout the state, with the large majority working at the General Office and Cooper Nuclear Station. In turn, NPPD Board members like Jerry Chlopek have also been called to serve – please take a moment to listen to his important story.
For their service – and all who have served, are serving or will serve – thank you. Your sacrifice ensures we all enjoy the freedoms of being U.S. citizens. For the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in the service of our country, we owe you a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
May God bless all of you, and the United States of America.