Independence Day   Leave a comment

I have always been a patriotic person. I have always loved and supported our veterans, especially those that actually saw combat and, of course, those that suffered physical or mental injuries or even lost their lives. I use my grandfather, several uncles and my father as my personal connections to these affairs and I have often replaced the face of a homeless vet with that of my father’s to remind myself that if he had not been lucky enough to have the financial support of our family from time to time, he could very well be the huddled mass of shivering and defeated flesh I so often, too often see, in the cluttered corners and forgotten ally ways of this ever throbbing American landscape.

I can’t seem to escape the eager comments of friends and family who are ever so willing to announce and celebrate their loyalty and thanks to those who have and currently do serve in our military. The one I see most often nowadays is the simplistic reference to how hot the climate is in the Middle East where so many of our enlisted are serving. Basically, you feel warm and have the nerve to complain. And then you are reminded that its even hotter over there, that these men and women are also very far from home and that yes, in fact, from time to time there are people shooting at them, trying to take their lives. It’s to stand up and get in your face and say, “How dare you bitch while they are in even worse conditions!”

And I’m getting tired of it all.

First, let me point out that there is no draft. Every single man or woman wearing any military uniform currently does so because they choose to. Perhaps they were hell bent on being a hero. Or maybe it just made the best sense at the time. Maybe they saw the health insurance, the life time benefits, the college tuition help, the job training, the home loans. Maybe they choose it to escape a life time of poverty, crime or some other civilian distress. Or maybe they were simply following in their parent’s foot steps.

Like fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, life guards, school teachers, bus drivers, doctors, lawyers, janitors, security guards and postal workers, these people weighed their options and decided who they wanted to be, how they wanted to live their lives. If at some point they were not properly compensated for the risk, effort or sacrifices they were required to make the only way I understand that they would deserve a life time of adulation and reward would be if they were forced into their situations. But if they joined any of these fields and merely were faced with the expected conditions, why are we making them larger than life heroes?

A school teacher handles children who misbehave and are unmotivated. I can’t believe this person was never told that this was a major possibility. A fire fighter works crazy shifts, is worked hard and is constantly in danger of losing his or her life. At what point in their training were they promised this was never to be the case? A postal worker spends an entire shift outdoors delivering the mail to his or her route in the blistering sun or while hiking through slick ice and snow covered roads. Did this person never hear the old saying that everyone else has heard about the nasty weather conditions not being a deterrent in the mail finding its way to your home?

When you join the United States Army, the Marines, the Air Force, the Navy, the Coast Guard, are you taken to a secret location and shown brochures of tropical islands? Does someone whisper in your ear that war is not real and all of the movies you’ve seen have merely been Hollywood’s creativity going haywire to sell tickets at the box office? Did you not know that you would be going to scary, unbearable, hostile locations where your life was in danger every minute of every day?

No. You knew what could happen. You understood the risk. But you wanted the respect, the security and the ability to do something of value with your life. Those rewards outweighed the costs involved. You chose to serve. And now, you are earning your pay check.

I still love and honor everyone who goes to work and does what they are told because that is what they are being paid to do. And no more do I hate the defense lawyer who argues brilliantly on behalf of his client who may actually be guilty than do I hate the soldier who tosses grenades into villages because that is his job.

But just like no one in the year 2012 in America is a junkie because they had no choice, no one today is a solder in the Middle East because he was force to sign over his life for a period of time.

I am who I am because of the choices I have made. And so is everyone else. But if we start to separate the common man from his military counter part we are turning this country into the very thing most of you say you are convinced the liberals are trying to turn it into. If the only way to be respected, honored, helped, loved, supported, provided for and tended to is by serving in the military then why are these brave young men and women fighting in the first place? If it’s not for the liberty, protection and freedom for the common man, for the most disenfranchised, then it would seem they are only serving to serve themselves.

And that is not a hero.

Let’s return the role of solder to what it was intended to be, a blessed vocation which stands for and defends the honor and majesty of every citizen.

Happy Independence Day, America.

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