By Guest Blogger Major Elizabeth Kreft, Military Legislative Fellow, Co-Author, In the Shadows of Greatness
Like thousands of Americans, September 11 will always be a day when I pause to remember the brave men and women who served and gave all for our country. And just as important, it’s a day to remember those who never intended to sacrifice so much, but their stories still remind us of the courage and honor it takes to wake up every morning and be an American.
It seems so simple some days, doesn’t it? We wake up, get dressed and either go to work or take care of our families and pursue life without much turmoil. But every day we breathe is a day that we bravely and purposefully embody the traits of a free nation. And today deserves an extra dose of inspiration, so I hope to share that with you – our calling for Veteran Awareness and Resource support through In the Shadow of Greatness.
On that Tuesday morning, 11 years ago, my classmates and I were seniors at the United States Naval Academy, walking to class and preparing for another day of leadership training and military mentorship.
When the first plane struck, we paused in curiosity and watched, wondering how something like that could have happened on a clear, blue-sky day.
When the second plane hit the towers, we knew we were at war.
As we hunkered down in our company areas waiting for instructions and watching the news unfold, we slowly began to realize this moment would completely change the path of our military service.
And throughout the next decade, as we commissioned into the Navy and Marine Corps (and yes – two of us went into the Air Force) we immediately began to employ our lessons of leadership in more ways than we could have ever known. Flying sorties over Iraq, providing relief to Katrina victims, surviving IEDs attacks in Afghanistan and more, my classmates and I went farther, served more and experienced leadership challenges we never could have predicted on that fateful September morning.
When we were able to pause and reflect on just how much we had seen and accomplished in a matter of ten years, several classmates wanted to document our experiences to share them with as many people as possible, in the hopes that our narrative would inspire others to serve, to lead and to embrace the post-9/11 generation of military members.
More than one hundred USNA grads contributed to the book “In the Shadow of Greatness” and 33 of those stories are captured in the hardcover edition. More stories are shared online at http://shadowofgreatness.com/.
Serving our country as a uniformed military member has been an amazing opportunity. Much like the rest of life, it has been a balance of joys and struggles. Having the chance to deploy to Afghanistan and bring my experience to the front lines was an honor I’ll never forget, but you only gain that chance by sacrificing other important things, like family time and the safety and security of home.
Disabilities impact more than 46,000 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq – emotional and physical, some debilitating. Our nation is doing more now than ever to support these Veterans, and our book is dedicated to helping the organizations that support Veterans with disabilities as they transition back to civilian work. We are grateful to share our voices with those who also understand sacrifice.
Life is about finding that proper balance. Finding the balance between sacrifice and service, between accepting risk and taking on a new experience, between struggling with a disability and overcoming the day-to-day challenges. In our book, we tried to find the balance between humbly sharing our stories and proudly explaining why we think the post-9/11 generation is ready to lead the nation into its next great era.
We hope you enjoy reading it, and we join with you today in honoring all those who have sacrificed in the name of freedom and liberty.