In honor of Veterans Day, Huffington Post Impact and Causecast present Veterans Day Salute To Service, a week-long series honoring the remarkable men and women of America's armed forces. Each day, a war veteran will share a personal essay about victories and struggles during war and in its aftermath, as well as nonprofit projects to support at home.
I always had strong ties to the military growing up. My grandfather served in Vietnam and my father was a Special Forces Green Beret. So it was almost expected I join the military, although my parents never really pushed the issue.
After college, I joined the Navy where I worked as a journalist on-board USS Nimitz. Once my time in the Navy was up, I accepted a position with the USO to go back to the Middle East as Duty Manager.
Working at the Ali Al-Salem center in Kuwait was challenging because I had to provide some organization and spearhead a makeover, which the center was in desperate need of. But it wasn't all these accomplishments that made this job so fulfilling, it was the stories about individual service members.
I was working in the United Through Reading's Military Program area, when a Marine, who looked like he'd rather not be bothered, entered the area. Reluctant at first, we convinced the marine to record himself reading a book to his children. Since it was his first one, I told him to take his time. He said he would be quick because they were easy books to read. Turns out he was in the room for about 40 minutes. When he emerged, a little teary eyed and with a changed, gentler demeanor, he then expressed with gratitude how he hadn't realized how much he actually missed his family. He was so thankful for the opportunity to send a message to them.
What put everything into perspective for me was attending a Ramp Ceremony, where the unit troops and base leaders line the path where a fallen soldier is loaded onto the plane back to the United States. As a USO employee, I had the privilege of attending the ceremony to represent the American people, but more importantly, I was there as a veteran to pay my respects.
Working for the USO is another way for me to serve my country just in a different capacity. It's also an opportunity to really have a profound effect on someone else's life and I am proud to serve them "until every one comes home!"
Support Duane DeVorak and his organization of choice, the USO, below or by visiting Salute To Service.