Please, just because I am from Tennessee, don’t mistake me for a big Vol fan. As a matter of fact, I am pretty much a non-fan, that is, I am not a real fan of any team. I’m just not a big sports guy.
Don’t be too shocked. It’s not that I dislike sports; it’s just that I have too little time to get into all the games and stats and money spent on dressing like an orange safety cone. However, when and if Tennessee ever again beats Alabama in football, you can bet I will be bouncing off the walls with unadulterated happiness.
But here’s the thing: I come from a long line of proud, patriotic, Tennessee volunteers – the kind that volunteer to serve.
Many of my family served in the military, including one great uncle who was at Normandy in WWII. But for the last three generations on my father’s side, we were only volunteers, never veterans.
As I understand it, my grandfather, William D. Baker, volunteered at the beginning of World War 2, but was declared to be “4F” ( physically unfit for military duty). I don’t know what was wrong with him, but he was a tough man that looked like he could have whipped more than a few Nazi’s.
In the 1960’s, before the “Tet” offensive, my dad, Terry L. Baker, volunteered to go to Vietnam. Yes, before he could be drafted, he volunteered to fight. Yet, like his father, my dad was turned away from the army because he was “overweight.” Is that all? Really? My dad could bench 300 lbs., was the state heavyweight wrestling champion, competed in track and field, knew how to hunt, and was considered (along with his brother) two of the toughest, meanest boys on the river. He could have handled the Army, I’m sure.
Then, on January 17 of 1990, after two days of humiliating tests and physicals, I was turned down by the Army. Believe it or not, I volunteered for service, just like my dad and grandfather before me, but was turned away because it was believed I had glaucoma (an eye condition), which I never actually had.
Almost a Veteran
What I had no way of knowing was that exactly one year after I was turned away from the Army, one year after volunteering, Operation Desert Storm would begin. Had I been accepted, I could have been right in the middle of the conflict in Iraq. Knowing me, I probably would have been one of the few Americans killed.
Yes, I’m a true Tennessee volunteer, and that’s all I will ever be, unless America is ever invaded during my lifetime. So, I was almost a veteran, but not quite.
In the meantime, I will consider myself one those carrying on the legacy of the “Black Robed Brigade” of the American Revolution. I may never be called to take up arms against the enemies of freedom, but I can man the pulpit and let freedom ring!
God bless our veterans and the families that stayed behind waiting for their homecoming. Your sacrifices paid for the liberty we enjoy today.
May God remind us that freedom isn’t free.