A friend’s post on Facebook started a fire inside me and I’m going to try and harness something in this forum. I’m going to try and hold back nothing with this post.
I am a proud veteran of the US Army. I joined for reasons all my own. I joined because I knew that at some point in my life I would have to ask for someone to take me seriously. I would’ve had to proven myself worthy of respect to merely ask someone else to consider giving it to me even for one instance. Little did I know that I would end up getting less of what I ever expected by choosing to give my life for the members of the society in which I live.
I may not be speaking for all soldiers and members of the armed forces but I will be bold to say that what I say is true most of the time. And ‘soldier’ in this context means anyone in the armed service. A Soldier is proud. They walk tall knowing that they’ve conquered demons most people can’t imagine. Even in basic training they’ve braved horrible living conditions, live fire training exercises and the complete destruction and rebuilding of their characters. Some get to see much more gruesome things early on. In my airborne school class a girl died when her parachute didn’t open properly. Talk about a humbling experience! All I can say is the sound of taps is quite possibly the hardest thing for me to bear. Even as I write this, I could easily get choked up thinking not only about those who have perished but their families and loved ones that have been left behind. Even on a less dramatic scale, the entire experience of becoming a soldier has permanent effects on one’s life.
Being in the midst of the general military population it was easy to see that for some people, it in itself was a social program. Some people join because they have no other viable option in life. Those people pissed me off when I was in. Overweight and lazy people were the worst. Here I was working my ass off trying to make a paycheck and not get in trouble while GI Fat-ass could always be late, never meet standards and not even deploy and receive the same privilege as I did without even trying. I would constantly wonder how I could be as useless as others and still go home every night feeling proud of myself. Funny thing is, that’s what it’s like on the outside as well. Here’s where it starts to piss me off.
The ‘broke-dicks’ and ‘shit-bags’ in the military, as useless as they are to a fellow soldier, have more credibility and demand for respect than any person who dares put down the value of a soldier or the military. They even deserve more respect than the ignorant, self-absorbed youth that think they are above public service at any level. I go to school with a ton of kids who would have no balls to even consider serving their country. It’s not even about war. Even National Guard duties do more humanitarian and relief missions than anything now that the Iraq war is done. How can I criticize these people? Well, for one I stood up and joined. I joined when I knew I would go to war and could quite possibly come back in a body bag. I was also one of those kids who thought I was above having to do military service when I was out of high school. I was going to do better things with my life. That is, until life bitch slapped me and brought me to my knees. I see myself in these kids that I’m surrounded by. I gave up my pride for a faith that giving selfless service would change everything about my life. It did.
You remember the Budweiser commercial where everyone in the airport stopped and stood up for the returning soldiers? Well, funny thing is before that commercial aired I actually witnessed it happen in real life. I was standing in the Atlanta Airport fresh out of Basic Training headed to Fort Leonard Wood with my brand new Class A uniform on. One ribbon and a few accoutrements made me feel prouder than I ever thought possible. As I was waiting in line to get some Chinese food in the main concourse, an eruption of applause started. On the upper level mezzanine a group of uniformed soldiers came walking in. Fresh out of combat. Desert Tan BDUs visibly worn from months in harsh living conditions. No shit, the entire concourse full of people stopped what they were doing, stood up and cheered as they walked by. Words can’t describe it. And I wouldn’t dare expect an anti military puke to have any concept of what that feeling is like. After a few deployments and countless traveling I eventually became the one who would get the applause as me and my fellow soldiers would walk in. Seems that nowadays people are getting bored with it and it’s less dramatic now.
If I get motivated enough I could write about the military experience for more than anyone of my readers would care to sit through. Here’s the climax of what prompted me to write this today.
As a veteran, I can say that we get the shaft from all angles. No one really gives a shit about our ‘service.’ Ok sure, there’s people out there that really do ‘support the troops’ with more than a stupid magnet on their car but those people are few and far between. What makes me more angry is the divide between benefits that a US Veteran gets and the benefits that ‘others’ get from our government. The ‘others’ that I talk about can be classified as the illegals, the welfare leaches, the criminals…
I’ve been to combat twice. I’ve seen one too many memorials and funerals. I’ve heard taps one too many times. I’ve stood in a rifle squad to give salute to a fallen soldier, standing as still and as proud as possible while watching one too many tears fall from the faces of those left behind. This is nothing however compared to the true suffering some of our veterans have endured. Watching your buddy gets his head blown off while he stands a foot away from you. Seeing your arms and legs ripped off by an IED. Choosing between killing an infant and risking a suicide bombing. Contemplating suicide because no one is there for you when you return home. Drinking yourself into a coma day after day. Spouses cheating on you with no remorse. Your kids not knowing who you are because you’ve been gone too long. I don’t speak of my personal incidents too much but from the handful of things that I’ve experienced and the effect it’s had on me, I can’t fathom what it must be like for those less fortunate than me.
I have no concept of understanding how anyone could demand and actually receive more respect and consideration than a Veteran. Even the shit-bags that can’t pass a PT test demand hundredfold what some people on welfare get. I said ‘some’ people… The ones who use their food stamp card to buy booze and cigarettes (usually by trading cash for benefits). The ones who try to use their food stamp card at Starbucks. (I wanted to come across the counter and choke them out when they did that). The ones who roll up to the food bank dressed in Fubu driving some brand new escalade. We’ve all seen it. It’s disgusting. ‘Oh, you keep popping out kids? No problem, let the taxpayers take care of them. Procreate away!’ I overhear conversation at school from kids who think the world owes them something. They think they are the shit. All I can do is sit and shake my head hoping that one day they will be humbled before they take the rest of us down with them. Funny thing, it’s not just the kids I hear these things from.
I will never cut in front of someone or demand precedence because of my veteran status. I will however be more open to exclaiming how little respect certain people deserve when they have done nothing in their life to deserve it. And just because someone has made a lot of money does nothing for their worth. What they decide to do with their money can redeem them to a point. It’s also not only about military service. It’s about giving back to our society. Being selfless for once. The world does not revolve around one person or one god. We are all in this together and though war is ultimately pointless, it is a fact of the life in which are living in. For the sake of veterans who are truly worse off than the typical soldier, we as a society owe them not because they were a part of the war machine, but because they were ready to lay their life down for a greater good that seems no one knows how to attain.
I was going to attach a few pictures of some memorials but it just didn’t seem right. As I was flipping through them I found it hard to maintain composure. And in realizing the difficulty in the simple task of remembrance from a veteran point of view, I don’t think some people deserve to share in the suffering of loss when they piss on the ground in which a veteran walks.