Originally, my plan was to wait til the wars in the Middle East were officially over and all service personnel were back home before I posted about this but with the recent developments, there seems to be no clue as to when that's going to be. What I am about to write has been slowly brewing up inside me for the past thirty years and is now coming to a head. I can't wait anymore so I am going to get this off my chest. Here it comes.
No other country in the world honours its service personnel in war time better than the United States. True there is one exception to this and there is still plenty of room for improvement today but I can proudly say that this is one area where America does better than anyone else. My concern is what happens once the bullets finally do stop flying and American forces are serving in peacetime. See, while Americans honour their war time military, they go almost 180 degrees in the opposite direction towards the peacetime military. What were once heroes are now considered criminals, druggies and welfare cheats who only join the military to stay out of jail or because they were too lazy to get a "real job." I know this because I served in peace time and while I thought I was doing my part in serving my country and no, I didn't expect a big parade every time I came home on leave or when I got out, I didn't expect the indifference or disdain a good number of Americans looked at me with at the time.
I would now like to draw attention to the white middle class parents of America. The fact that your child wants to serve his country, even in peacetime, is something to be proud of. The peacetime military is not a place for white trash and racial minorities to find employment but is there for all people regardless of race or economic or social class. Most importantly, your son or daughter will not be wasting their lives if they decide to give three or four years to their country. They will still be able to go to college or do whatever they want with their lives once they leave the service.
Now for you born again, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians: There are many good Christian young men and women serving in the military even during peacetime. Should one of your fellow Christians decide to enlist, they will not necessarily be corrupted and turn their backs on God. Even if they do, it will be through conscious choice they made and not because they were led astray by the 'evil heathens' who make up America's peacetime military. That was one of the things I hated about so called Christians who judged me. Yes, I backslid while I was in the marines and I will admit that the marines and the people I served with provided the means and encouragement but they weren't the cause of my supposed corruption. That is a cop out in my view as I made conscious choices and if you want to blame anything, it will be my literal belief in the scriptures being torn down by the reality I faced, even before I joined. Oh yes, another thing I find hypocritical about these "Christians" is that they used to pontificate about obeying the government citing Romans, Chapter 13 and how all Vietnam draft dodgers will burn in hell for disobeying the Lord but were the first ones to brand peacetime military personnel evil heathens.
Let me explode another myth about those actively serving during peacetime. Even though there might not be a war on at the time, it doesn't mean they are just sitting around looking good in a uniform and getting drunk. No, they are training hard for the next time they may be called to put their asses on the line. They will still be subject to the same discipline and be put in stressful situations to prepare them for the real stress they might have to face should they ever go into combat. While, they are not having it as tough as someone in war time, they aren't having a picnic either.
My final point is how those who served in peacetime are treated when they leave the service. Because many people think military people didn't have to go to war, that they should be able to simply adjust back into the civilian world. It's not always that easy. In my case, I was fed up of wearing a crew cut for four years and dressing like everyone else down to the minutest detail that I want to assert my individuality and went the other extreme. I grew my hair long and wore Native American moccasin boots just because I wanted to stand out. Sure, I was aware that men were wearing shorter hair and Nike sneakers but I knew that I needed dress and grow my hair the way I did because of my experiences from the previous four years. My mistake was naively thinking that people would understand that I was just relaxing after living under military discipline but I was wrong. In the intolerant times of mid 80's Regan America, I was treated not as a veteran returning home but an outcast. No one wanted to know my side of the story and the fact I had served my country either went unheard or didn't matter. That along with other issues like my college not giving veterans college credit for Phys Ed in spite of the fact the government said they should gives me little wonder why I grew so bitter towards America three years after I left the marines.
I guess the lesson to be learned here is that Americans should regard all people who are willing to give up a few years of their lives to serve their country with respect. Yes, much more respect must be given to those who put their lives on the line but those who didn't but still served should not be treated with indifference or disdain. They should get all the benefits their entitled to and you yuppies who managed to go to college and didn't serve, you have no right to look down your noses at any veteran. The good thing is that now a days, I get Americans thanking me for serving to which I am truly grateful and you get a big hearty "You're welcome." However, it shouldn't have take two wars in the Middle East to cause this and if people had thanked me thirty years ago, I would not have been so bitter for so long.
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