When someone thanks me for serving in the military, it means a lot to me. However, I often find myself feeling a bit guilty when people express gratitude for what they believe to be a life of hardship and sacrifice. And make no mistake; there are times when service to our nation means sacrifice, hardship, danger and for some of our nations’ warriors — death.
But for many veterans, myself included, life in the military was often rewarding, exciting and life-changing in a very positive way. Those who have not been in the military but serve their communities in other ways; as teachers, first-responders, volunteers, etc., understand how helping others can bring great joy and satisfaction. So, while I usually take the opportunity in this column to discuss matters of significant importance to the veterans community, today I would like to share a personal story that illustrates a “lighter side” of the military experience.
Once upon a time, my pride in being a Nevadan almost got me in some serious legal trouble! Many years ago I was stationed in Germany as a military police woman. As a young Soldier stationed far from home I missed the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the high mountain desert. A friend was traveling back to Nevada on vacation and asked if he could send me anything. I asked for one thing — that he send me a piece of sagebrush. A few weeks later I was called to my commander’s office where surrounding his desk were my supervisors and a criminal investigator. The commander handed me an unopened letter that had been intercepted by the mail room clerk.
When held to the light, the letter appeared to contain a greenish-brown vegetable substance. I knew immediately he suspected that someone had sent me marijuana. When I tried to explain that the letter contained sagebrush, it was clear that no one believed me. After several tests were conducted proving that the material was NOT marijuana, my commander asked me why in the heck (not exactly his phrase) did I have someone send me sagebrush — what was I thinking? I answered that you had to be from Nevada to understand. I never again asked anyone to send me sagebrush, but I also never stopped longing for the sights and smells of home; the sunsets, the sage, the pines, and the wet willow tang along Nevada’s desert rivers.
Kat Miller is the director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.