Some of the local veterans who spoke with Prior Lake High School Students on Thursday came from families who had served since the Revolution; others talked to a recruiter on a whim and, next thing they knew, were giving the enlistment oath.
Either way, several said, the job was worthwhile despite the days of danger and death. And those came often, especially for those in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
A dozen veterans spent the school day talking with class after class about their experiences, motivation for joining and thoughts on their service now.
Several were retired, but two are still serving, including in the continuing war in Afghanistan. That 17-year conflict has no clear end in sight and is still claiming lives, including that of Utah National Guard Maj. Brent Taylor earlier this month.
Their stories ranged from deadly serious to more uplifting.
Floyd Nagler, who served with the Marines in Vietnam, recalled helplessly listening over the radio as other Marines were killed by North Vietnamese fighters and said it was his worst day in the service.
Sometime later, John Murray said he was onboard the USS Blue Ridge during the evacuation of the Vietnamese capital, when he and other Marines tipped empty helicopters into the sea to make room for more that arrived bearing refugees.
Steve Carr, a sailor in the 1970s, said his time serving was as precious to him as his family and his faith.
Veterans Day is Sunday, Nov. 11, and commemorates the end of World War I while honoring American veterans of all wars.