Men and women who serve in the military see things none of us have ever seen. In fact, they are trained to become innured to seeing and doing horrible, grotesque, unimaginable things (so they can stay as sane as possible). Yes, doctors (for example) may see similar blood and gore, but a doctor’s job description does not require him to perpetrate violence upon other people.
These people put their lives on the line every day of their lives so we can sit in offices or in our homes and bitch about birth control, write on our blogs, kiss our partners and children, relax in our own beds, eat delicious food. They are sacrificing all of these things so that we can have them.
And the worst part is that they do this service in the name of American ethics and values (not necessarily their own ethics and values). They are risking their lives for things we read about in the newspaper and minimize and disparage. But there is a difference between raging against a war we are waging and raging against the person who put his life on the line to fight in that war. Christians try deal with this by reminding themselves to “hate the sin, not the sinner” (although they seem to hate sinners an awful lot, especially when they are gay or aren’t Christian).
Americans today are so disconnected from the military. “Joining the military” is something someone else is doing in some other country. They’re taking care of the dirty work while we’re reaping all the benefits. And, like those cloying thoughts we have about destroying the environment, we sweep these pesky concerns about soldiers aside and continue complaining about how much we hate war and defense spending.
I have talked to men who have killed men, and it is pretty fucking bleak. Killing a person is life-changing. And the difficult part isn’t just dealing with the thought that you have killed somebody. You might feel worst about the fact that you don’t feel anything. You might have flashbacks to collecting the body of the person you killed. You may have mixed emotions about whether or not the person you killed deserved to die.
The incidence of mental illness among people who have served in the military is harrowing. In 2009, 7% of medical discharges from the military were necessary because of mental illness. Approximately 1/3 of homeless people are veterans, although veterans only make up 11% of the US population. Which means that 67,000 veterans will are homeless tonight. Add to this depressing statistics on divorce, drug and alcohol addiction, and social isolation following service and I start to question the sanity of anyone who is willing to give their life in service to the military.
So when I see shit like this Atlantic Wire article about how “morally repugnant” and “disgusting” these people are who we have trained to become callous and self-protective in the face of violence…I feel like shaking the writer out of his/her frightening lack of big-picture-perception.
We are so divorced from the lives, pain, and suffering of military men and their families that these seem to be the only stories that we hear these days. What about all of the thousands of heroes who are enlisted in the military and are engaged in heroic feats every day? Like this Lieutenant who, with his Marines, endured 2 days without sleep in 100-degree heat to obtain a major victory on the border of Pakistan. And Pat Tillman, the multi-millionaire professional football player who enlisted in the army in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, later losing his life in Afghanistan.
These stories are just as sensational. And they should be pulled to the front in place of navel-gazing articles about rare and isolated incidents that do nothing to treat or help any of us. The positives are individual and institutional: the military is one of the best ways I am familiar with for people to raise themselves up out of poverty and other shitty circumstances.
Even though we may not have friends, children, or neighbors in the military, we can honor the work of our military by focusing on what matters: valuing and caring for men and women who risk their lives in service to our nation. And cutting them some slack once in a while.
And also there’s this:
Ok ok, and this: