Monday, May 27, 2013

The Truth About Soldiers, By A Soldier

I posted this to Facebook, after reading some very negative comments about soldiers, in effect, blaming the Privates for the failures of the political establishment:

I'm still recovering from being in the State of Highly Pissed, zip code 000ME, for the past half hour, after reading some self-righteous moron's slanderous attack against soldiers, as their big contribution to this grand Universe on this Memorial Day.

Let me explain something important that you most likely don't know, if you are privileged to the extent not to have any veterans in your family. And let me make a broader, maybe significant point about the suicide epidemic among soldiers and veterans.

You may know that the greatest danger to today's soldier is from him/herself. More active duty soldiers die from suicide than from enemy fire. That's particularly significant for suicides of soldiers not currently deployed or facing immediate deployment. The suicide rate among veterans, those who have left the battlefield and are 'safely' home, is astonishingly high. And the thing that seems to confuse so many mental health pros is the rate is more or less the same for soldiers who have never been downrange, as it is for those who have served time in a combat zone.

Here's my insight, for what it's worth: We, particularly myself, tend to express the sacrifice soldiers make by saying "We are prepared to die for our country, our democracy, for you," a powerfully, personally true statement.

Trained Soldiers, whether that training was used or not, know the darker truth. We were all drawn to the military in the first place because we were willing to do the job of defending our valued principles to the end of our lives, every man or woman who ever signed up knew that going in.

The harder point is learning to kill.

We all enter boot camp as innocent little lambs. We are soon faced with the reality that Patton expressed so much more colorfully: my job is not to die for my country, my job to make other people die. The right people, in large numbers if possible, up close and by hand, if necessary. And they proceed to teach you how to do that with efficiency, and with no emotional involvement, at the time.

You are changed for life. That is that. It is that simple, and that complex, as individualized in any given person's psyche and life experiences. One thing I know is crucial to all of this, is any given soldier must never loose faith in command. That starts with the person that gives them their orders, and goes all the way to the Commander in Chief. It's one of the reasons most all soldiers avoid political involvement while in the service, but become very engaged afterward. We don't want to risk losing confidence in our country and its chosen path for us, while we do have to survive whatever fucked-place war they send us too.

So if you are one of these people who's lucky enough to have a rich and privileged life protected by other people's blood, you better realize the full extent of sacrifice that a person makes FOR LIFE when they decided this democracy is worth protecting, whatever that ends up requiring of them downrange, or at home.

If you, like me, think the Iraq, and most of the Afghanistan, wars were either illegal, irrationally fought (still in the 'stan), ill-advised, or ill-whatever, your problem SHOULD NOT be with the soldiers. Your problem, and all your ugly ass Facebook-douchebag comments should be for yourself, for allowing it to happen in the first place.

[When I say "soldier," I do mean anyone in any service who ever choose to serve, be it twenty years at sea, or one single day in a dangerous port, we are all brothers and sisters at arms, and always will be. Hooah!]

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