I grew up a small girl in a small town thinking it was a small world. How awesomely ignorant I was! If only I could sit down and have a coke with my younger self, oh the things I would tell her. For the younger generations that are still sitting and waiting for life to begin, I want them to know it’s an amazing thing.

The military changed our lives. My husband and I were a couple way back when and while we were smart, we didn’t have much education. We were struggling in blue collar jobs— me as a receptionist and him as a construction worker. We worked hard and never have I regretted our beginnings. It taught us that we can only depend on each other. We didn’t know anything about handouts, government assistance, and we were lucky if one of our extended family members cooked dinner and invited us. SCORE. Free food.

His decision to join the military was one he made alone. I didn’t have any input and frankly I didn’t know until after it was a done deal. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is stand there and applaud his drive, his hunger. I never imagined that he would invite me along, to get married and move together to face the world. All I knew at that moment was that he had surrendered his life to something bigger than us... than him.

There used to be a pride in completing your obligation to your country. People lined up to sign on the line, leaving house and home behind. And then we saw a war that brought up a whole generation of proud protesters.

I love the idea that we each have our own destiny. I really enjoy the ability to choose and make choices that suit my belief system.

However, it is because of those who serve that we have that choice. You can choose to serve the country that grew you in some way, or you can flaunt your ability to not. You can march and you can shout. You can refuse to stand for the country that stands for you, because of those that serve. They provide the freedom that you sleep under, that you protest under.

I find myself staring at pictures of World War II and Vietnam veterans often. The smiling, innocent smiles of those wholesome boyish men that stepped into the gap between freedom and everything else.

They found themselves jaded, their innocence often lost in a war they didn’t choose. They didn’t waive their right to serve because they had their own opinion — they served their country.

How can you serve without risking it all? You can’t. You can serve your family and you can serve your community, but we all should serve our country. So how can you serve, if you can’t ship off to stand in the gap? As there are some who aren’t able bodied or able minded to hold that line.

Vote. Voting is a right that is often abused in our country. Whether it’s someone who doesn’t vote but would rather complain, or someone who votes when it’s not a right of theirs. Voting gives you a say in how the future plays out. As a citizen, it’s a way to serve your country. Read up on the issues, prepare yourself for the decisions with a seriousness that is due. Voting is a constitutional duty of a citizen.

Teach. Teach the people around you. Whether you are a parent raising up young minds or you are educating the people around you. Realize that sharing knowledge allows you to serve. Knowledge is power. Never stop reaching and learning then you are tasked with sharing that knowledge.

Work for the better. Think about those in our community who serve— the police, the firemen, the mayor, the prison guard, the judge, the bailiff and frankly the list goes on and on. Serving doesn’t always mean combat.

Serving means that you are dedicating yourself to the betterment of your country, and if you can’t serve your country, don’t expect it to serve you. Contribute don’t just consume.

— Kalynn Brazeal is a conservative, Christian wife/mom/country girl carrying around an MBA, several decades of business experience and a strong opinion. Now living in the remoteness of North Dakota, she continues to share her column on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and cake. She can be reached by email at kmbrazeal@icloud.com.