I’ve mentioned a few times on the podcast that I feel strongly in the idea that veterans are not the only owners of the ‘military’ story.
Veterans often carry a notion of protection and awareness towards the identities they project to others about their time in service. Almost daily, I pass a news article or friend’s post on Facebook regarding stolen valor and the comment section is usually foaming at the mouth to discredit ‘fake’ veterans, lest they not distance themselves from the idea that any part of their own service be seen as illegitimate. I’m not trying to discredit the idea of suppressing and restricting those who say they’ve served when they clearly haven’t (my favorite one roaming around is the guy in USMC dress blues with a SEAL trident sitting below his ribbons.) My point is that everything about the military experience can be experienced by those who have never served. Fighting in combat, participating in drill and ceremony, and even the knowledge and training received by Special Operations Forces such as advanced marksmanship and combatives can be experienced and obtained by ordinary people. The combination of these elements certainly makes the military experience a unique one, but not unknown outside of its ranks.
Further more, the stories that ordinary citizens share about their experiences with service members of all nations and stripes belong to them as much as any veteran. Veterans are simply people who have survived extraordinary circumstances under the flag of our government. And the extraordinary circumstances through which service members are sent and have survived are debated and chosen politically. The military is far more politicized that my 18 year old self would ever have fucking believed, both within its ranks and outside of it. And the reality is that in our type of democracy, our main avenue to affect foreign policy and thereby overall military policy is through elections. But we seldom make that connection; that our politicians, through the ‘power of the purse’ can help dictate policy. We’re now at a trillion dollar defense budget. And what the military does under the banner of ‘protecting our freedom’ have direct and indirect consequences for all Americans, let alone the dead brown people from ‘shithole’ countries that we’ve left in our wake.
So, don’t ever give yourself the chance to let a news alert of a dead service member go by without asking yourself, “What was that servicemember’s mission?” and “What aspect(s) of that mission did not go as planned?” Granted, that should just be your first two questions, but I think you get the idea. “Thank you for your service” needs to become “tell me about your service.” And we need to lose the reverence to which we’ve ascribed to veterans. Veterans have been through some harsh shit; don’t get me wrong. I’m walking living proof of that harsh shit. But my experience is not above other kinds of suffering that people have experienced. I believe my government owes a significant debt to all veterans and needs to be held accountable in repaying that debt. However, and if you’ve only skimmed to this point, let me be crystal fucking clear: defending our nation and the rights of its citizens, while repaying our debt to veterans is not mutually exclusive with ceasing the arming of terrorists or stopping the brutal massacre of innocent civilians in actions we support like in Yemen. We can do all those things together and still maintain the defense of our country. I want the opportunities to create veterans like Danny and myself to be few and far between.
For now, we’ll continue to wage war in every continent in one way or another. Those fucking penguins in Antarctica have had it coming. And we’ll mourn our lost service members as the cost of ‘freedom,’ all the while the only actual people whose freedom it actually affected are already dead, maimed, or displaced into a refugee black hole somewhere. Many veterans will continue to have meme fights on Facebook and disparage others’ attempts at ‘stolen valor,’ while ignoring the war and chaos still being made by their former employers.
Please speak out about the topics Danny and I cover on the podcast, Don’t let any of these stories stagnate and become forgotten. And share new ones we’ve never considered. We’ll be fucking all ears.
Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. At least for me, it would be less painful to consider the history of Auschwitz if our country wasn’t still creating widows and orphans in the wake of its imperialism. If we weren’t, at least we could look at survivors and relatives of Auschwitz and tell them that we’ve really learned the lessons that their ancestors’ lives gave us. For now, all we have is ‘sympathy for the devil.’
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
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Note: The views expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts alone, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.