Service. What does it mean to you?

As a retired Marine, I’m often asked what my time in service was like.

I usually tell people it was great and made me who I am today, but I rarely have the chance to delve further into it. I thought I would do so here, so people reading this blog could get to know and understand me better.

Service. It’s such a simple word, yet it can mean so many different things to so many people. As an automobile owner, you think of taking your car in for maintenance as service. If you’re religious, service can mean attending a worship ceremony. If you’re into sports, a service (better known informally as a serve) is a shot to start a point in tennis. But for those who have been in the public sector (government, law enforcement, military, etc.) the word service takes on an entirely different meaning. Let me explain further.

When I was young, I was full of optimism and confidence that I could represent my country proudly and make a difference in the lives of other people around the world. I just had to find the right path. After graduating from college, I found it by arguably taking the biggest risk of my life and joining the United States Marine Corps. Over the course of the next 21 years there were many inherent risks that came with being a Marine, but none more so to me than my initial decision to serve.

So what did serving do for me? It allowed me to embark on a life altering journey.

Whether it was building mud huts and schools for families across East Africa, delivering medical supplies to families in remote villages across South West Asia, or even through the occasional dark and challenging times leading Marines during counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East, I always felt great pride in making a difference in people’s lives. With its high and uncompromising standards, the Marine Corps gave me the opportunity to accomplish things I never could have done on my own. It taught me the best way to become something bigger than one’s self in life is through service, as it requires being prepared to sacrifice all that you are to a greater cause. Simple enough in its definition, daunting at times in its execution, but forever intrinsically rewarding.

The terms of my service may have changed, but my passion to serve has not. I will, therefore, serve this community to the best of my ability so that we can all grow and accomplish things together that we could have never dreamed of doing on our own.

Stay tuned to the Fifty & Co. Men’s Corner to learn more.

Shannon Neller


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