This One’s For You 2014: Last Train to Clarksville

That song, “Last Train to Clarksville” by The Monkees might be the only pop culture reference (if a 1966 song can still be considered “pop culture”) to my hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee. If you’ve never been there, it can be a completely different world to what you’re used to.

This One's For You - Clarksville

I spent the first 23 years of my life in Clarksville. I was born there and most of my education was there, all the way from elementary school through my Bachelor’s degree. For those that don’t know, Clarksville is right on the border of Kentucky, and it sits right on the edge of Ft. Campbell, an Army base most well known for the 101st Airborne Division.

For most of my life, I didn’t pay much attention to that fact, but that changed over time. Growing up in Clarksville, it was commonplace to see men and women walking into wherever you were in camouflage. It was weird to go into a store or restaurant that didn’t offer some kind of discount to military personnel. Many local businesses would close for Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, and it was right around one of those times that my most vivid memory lies.

I visited a friend’s church one week, and it just so happened that it was the day before Memorial Day. It was only a couple years after the war in Afghanistan had begun, and the pastor wanted to have a special prayer for the soldiers. The pastor asked for anyone who had an immediate family member who was currently serving or had previously served in the military to stand up, and by my estimation, nearly a third of the congregation did. He decided to extend that same invitation to those who had extended family members who served or were serving, and I could barely see anyone that was left sitting.

Much of that is because in Clarksville, serving in the military is more than just something that select few do. It’s a way of life for most people. Most of Clarksville’s civilian population is made up of those who have retired from the Army and their families. Many of the kids follow their parents’ example and join the armed forces after they graduate from high school. Others go to the local college, Austin Peay State University, on a military scholarship. Once they’re done with school, they take their new oath of office right in the middle of the graduation ceremony to a standing ovation.

I’ve had an opportunity to see what military life has on people. Partially due to where I grew up, but also due to my own family serving in the military. I’ve had one sister in the Air Force and Air Force Reserves for nearly 18 years, and my other sister was in the Army for 5, which includes a tour of duty in Iraq. The impact that combat has on a person cannot be measured, but it’s days like today that puts it in the front of my mind.

We need days to remember those who have sacrificed for all of us. Not only those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, but those who are still trying to recover, and even those who have mental and physical scars that will never heal. I don’t think that there is a single person who comes back home from combat that isn’t changed in some way.

Not only should we remember today, but it’s also a day to reach out to servicemen, servicewomen, and their families to do our part to try and make their lives better in any way that be can. That’s the small duty that we have to those who have spent their time, effort, and life with a much bigger duty.

Ben Chambers
The View From Here
Ben’s Twitter

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