Photo by Jason Johnston

What do you want to be when you grow up? Throughout our youth, this question was posed to you over and over and over. My answer to this question was, “Marine!” Though I am not a Marine, I am a former Army officer and a combat veteran, so in a manner of speaking, I have been there and done that, when it comes to living my childhood professional dream.

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Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

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And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

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Photo by Lance Cpl. Stuart Wegenka

“I am always on,” is a phrase I at times say to my civilian friends when I need them to understand that I am always aware of my surroundings. “Stay alert! Stay alive!” is a phrase on which I was raised, but not until my time in Iraq did I embrace and understand its true meaning.

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Photo by Spc. Carlynn Knaak

There is an unwritten code in our armed forces that those serving, especially officers, should not vote in U.S. elections. The most famous service member to follow this precedent was Gen. George C. Marshall, who served as Army chief of staff, secretary of state, and secretary of defense during World War II and the Cold War. The logic behind his decision not to vote stemmed from a desire to avoid partisan politics, because it would distract him from keeping the oath that commissioned officers take when joining their branch of service and upon every promotion, to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

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Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis

There is a long-standing joke at West Point that when wearing civilian clothes, cadets can spot each other a mile away. I tested this theory multiple times as a cadet, and it proved true every time. In the civilian world, this same “joke” remains accurate. Here in the nation’s capital, I can spot a Marine and a soldier a mile away. Here’s how one generally dresses: First, he has what we refer to at West Point as a “pizza pocket haircut,” known in the vernacular as a high and tight. If it is the summertime, he is wearing socks with leather sandals, a belt in his cargo shorts, and a short-sleeved collared shirt. Oakleys are the sunglasses of choice.

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Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte

A week or so after last year’s federal government shutdown, I had the extreme displeasure of attending a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing where Secretary Eric Shinseki testified. I say extreme displeasure because what had occurred at the hearing was infantile, to say the least. I was invited to attend the hearing because I was on stand-by to provide a veteran’s perspective on the shutdown’s impact on veterans and their family members. I am thankful that I did not have to testify, because instead of a lesson in civics and the legislative process, I learned how grown men and women, supposed leaders of our great nation, purposely use every tool in their kit bag to push their own personal agendas.

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