On Memorial Day, we're asked to pause and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, fighting for this country.
Men and women join the military for different reasons. And they have can have wildly different experiences, depending on luck, and the choices they make.
But fortunately, not all veterans have to make that sacrifice. Some, like Russ Davis of Braintree, Mass., have what you might call simply ordinary experiences.
Davis joined the army while unemployed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“A lot of folks sign up for college money or to learn a trade,” Davis said. “I signed up because I wanted to fight.”
He chose the infantry, the branch of service with the highest casualty rate.
“The way I put it is, when everyone was kids, no-one played with the GI Joe computer repair man,” he said. “And also I felt that was where I could contribute the most, and contribute the hardest. Do the thing most people don’t want to do.”
Davis got to fight, completing two tours in Iraq. War has “good days and bad days," Davis says.
“The best part of the whole thing was — some people say it’s a cliche, but it’s really not — the whole band of brothers thing. You never forget the guys you serve with,” he said. “To this day, they’re still some of the finest people I ever knew.”
But while Davis believes that war is bad, it's an experience he values immensely.
“It’s not a good time. But when you get out of it, it’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything. (It) makes you appreciate what you (have)," he said.
Davis was injured by a spent bullet in the last week of his second deployment. He was badly bruised in the backside, earning him the nickname, ‘Iron Ass.’
He’s now out of the military and training to be a mental health counselor to help other returning veterans.