Service and Sacrifice

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Zemkosky
  • 17th medical support squadron
Service and sacrifice are terms all of us in the military are familiar with; however I did not fully understand their true meaning until recently. After all, the words "service" and "sacrifice" carry a heavy discount because they are often overused by American journalists and politicians. The dictionary definition of service is an act of helpful activity and sacrifice that may be defined as the surrender of something prized for the sake of something else. Their "true" meanings are now apparent to me. Allow me to explain... 

I have spent 14 years of my career being a force multiplier at the unit and staff levels, providing administrative and logistical support to those taking care of the patients. Much of that time has been in the basement of a medical center with little interaction with those benefiting from my efforts... the patients and their families. Then between 2006 and 2008, I spent a year over two deployments at Balad Air Base, Iraq, site of the busiest hospital in the Area of Responsibility. Between deployments, I held a position at Brooke Army Medical Center in which I was heavily involved with implementation of the portion of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission law that affected the military medical mission in San Antonio, Texas. 

These deployments opened my eyes to the true meaning of the service and sacrifice of others. My time at BAMC reinforced this. It was a very humbling experience to see our wounded warriors being treated and recovering from their injuries. Burn patients and amputees with the determination and drive to get their quality of life back. Not wanting pity, only respect and a chance to prove themselves. 

In reflection, I had become complacent and comfortable with my daily routine. It happened gradually and easily. I was busy with work, with my family and with scouting. My free time was productive, but it was self-centric. After witnessing the "true" service and sacrifice of others, I felt inspired to do more. I began by donating blood as often as allowed, but this still wasn't enough. This week, my wife and I are hosting a fundraising event to benefit a wounded warrior charity. It has taken a year of planning and promises to be extremely busy and tiring, but it will all be worthwhile whether we raise $5 or $5,000. 

I encourage each of you to reflect on your personal situation and perform a helpful activity at some level within our local or national community even if it requires you to surrender something prized. Your efforts can be personal, material or both. Any service done for others is fulfilling, but if you actually take the time to meet those you are benefitting, I guarantee you will realize a new level of satisfaction. "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else." -- Benjamin Franklin