Staff Sergeant Travis Caldwell delivers the keynote remarks during the Veterans Day service on Nov. 11 at the Veterans Monument in Stokesdale. Caldwell talked about growing up and wanting to serve, the sacrifices veterans make and the importance of support back home.
By Thomas Lester
From the time he was a child, Staff Sergeant Travis Caldwell felt called to serve in the military.
"I grew up in church. On Veterans Day, the pastor would ask veterans to stand up to be honored. I wanted to be one of those to stand up; I didn't want to be one of the ones sitting down," Caldwell recalled. "At a young age, I decided that was what I wanted to do."
Caldwell remembered the urge to enlist as the special guest speaker at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Veterans Monument in Stokesdale.
As a senior at Northwest Guilford in 2000, Caldwell joined the National Guard and has worked as a C-130 engine mechanic. Among his deployments are a 2002 tour of Kuwait, a 2004 tour of Qatar and Uzbekistan, and two tours of Afghanistan.
Caldwell said certain sacrifices come with serving, including time and family.
"I've missed two of my brothers' weddings; many birthdays, most recently my nephew who was born on my birthday," he said. "We give up freedoms; we give up conveniences; we give up privacy; we give up holidays. Between me and my stepfather and my little brother all being on deployments, we've missed several Thanksgivings and Christmases because of deployments. It's a treat when everybody is around because it doesn't seem to happen all that often lately."
Caldwell said a good support system at home makes a big difference, -- friends and family taking care of bills and other needs for a member of the military. While he considers himself fortunate in that regard, others aren't as lucky.
"Some people don't have all that support. I've seen it on deployments," Caldwell said. "You can see the stress level on them multiplying. There are ways that other people besides family could help with that."
And in these uncertain times, Caldwell said he's grateful for the service of brave men and women who feel the call of duty.
"They say less than 1 percent of all Americans serve. In a time that unfortunately, we're far removed from the generation of 'Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country,' we still have people who sign up every day to sign up for their country. I want to say thank you to those people and to all those who have served."