When I signed up to join the Marine Corps back when I was 17 (I had to wait until I was 18 to go to boot camp), I had no idea what I was joining beyond becoming a Marine. I was joining generations of men and women before me who decided to answer a call that was something greater than themselves. Not only did I earn the title U.S. Marine, but I have also earned another title of veteran. No matter what branch a person has served in, being a veteran there is an understanding that we all were willing to step up and do whatever it takes to preserve our nation.
I come from a family of veterans going as far back as World War II (who knows, maybe beyond that). I have uncles who served in Vietnam, cousins who served in Desert Storm, and my generation, the War on Terror. My sister Angel and my older brother Robert were in the Army. My younger brother Jeremy and I joined the Marine Corps. My sister served in Korea during her time in the Army, and my brothers and I are all veterans of the Iraq war. Sadly, my brother Robert was killed in action on April 4, 2004, and my younger brother Jeremy, a few years after his return from Iraq, lost his battle with PTSD and took his own life.
Veteran’s day means so much more for me now because we must make sure all these brave men and women who have stepped up to this calling are recognized for their actions and willingness to lay it all down. I was lucky enough to come back from war without a scratch on me, my ability to sleep, and my mental health. We must recognize those who lost so much even though they made it home after the war. We must show appreciation for what we have because of what they sacrificed. Thanking a veteran is great but taking what they have sacrificed and using your gift of freedom is one of the best ways to show appreciation to a veteran.
As a veteran, I would be willing to put it all on the line again. I would not change any part of my journey, and the same can be said for many veterans. We are a unique group of individuals who for some reason or another wanted to contribute a little more to something big. For my two brothers who are no longer with us, I have tattooed a quote on myself for each of them representing our willingness to sacrifice. For my brother Specialist Robert Arsiaga, “Freedom is not free”. And for my brother Sergeant Jeremy Arsiaga, “My blood, Your freedom”.
Rest in peace to all who have made that sacrifice. And to all veterans, welcome home.