On this July 4, I want to share a story from my first year in chiropractic school.

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the spring of 2003, then spent that summer working as many hours as I could for Harold Sinner at Harold’s Landscaping. In August I put away the work boots and married Ellora Andrews, and then promptly left with her for St. Louis and chiropractic school.

We were young and while I always knew I wanted to be a chiropractor, those first several months in a new city and in school were rough, to say the least. My grandfather passed away, and that affected me more than I thought it would. Grandpa Toby was a photographer in World War II and was even mentioned in Ernie Pyle’s “Here is Your War.”

I’m not sure why, but thoughts of him and my paternal grandfather, and his service to our country had me thinking a lot about what I should actually do with my life. Considering that chiropractic school, at that moment, wasn’t what I was hoping for, I started to look at other options. I even took the Law School Acceptance Test. I won’t get in to how that exam went besides to say it was 40-grit sandpaper directly applied to my skin, rough.

Not long after that terrible LSAT experience, I actually met with a representative from the National Guard. Perhaps I could be of service to my family and my country the way my grandfathers did—by joining the service. I met with Sergeant Matthew Hampton. I still can vividly remember a lot of that conversation. If I could have signed up right then and there, I would have. I said to him, “I want to do this. I want to help. I want to do something for our country.”

His reply to that statement has stuck with me more than any other part of the experience.

He said that serving our country in the military is only one way to serve our country. Then he listed off three other ways:

1. Be personally financially responsible

2. Be an informed voter

3. Help others at a local level

Pretty simple ideas, but in my opinion, they’re profound. And I think they’re even more profound today than they were during that conversation in 2003. Today it seems we hear more and more promises for free stuff—college tuition and health care to name two big ones—and we seem to become overwhelmed with issues on a national and international level. Also, credit card debt and other signals of not being too financially responsible on a personal level are ever-increasing. 

On this Fourth, I’d like to point out that our Founding Fathers gave us a country with incredible opportunity. We all get a pretty darn fair shake and chance to do and be what we want. Life isn’t fair, and no system is perfect, so there are aspects of America that could be better. Yet, I’ll take life here in Wisconsin and the U.S. and I’ll thank God I’m here.

I want to thank those who serve and protect us and protect those freedoms as well. Just recently many soldiers from our area returned home and it was such a blessing to see the pictures and the smiles of families reunited. God bless our troops and their families.

Finally, enjoy this holiday. And look at ways you can help out locally. How can we make Kiel and the Tri-County area a little better? What individual will you see today who you could help out? Maybe it’s just a handshake or a smile. Or a genuine question of, “How are you today?” where you listen for the answer too. We have the greatest impact not in a national election, but right here in our neighborhood. So be a good neighbor this Fourth of July. It’s a darn great neighborhood and country, isn’t it?