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Archive for the 'Fortune and Glory' Category

Thanks for Signing That Dotted Line

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): This is a hate-filled, minimally-edited, list-form Veteran’s Day screed I expect will be misunderstood, mis-characterized, and disliked. It goes like this…

Since 1973, there’s been no conscription in the United States. That is, there’s been no Draft for forty years.

OK, then, for the last forty years my beloved country has relied on an All-Volunteer Military – for whatever the grand old U. S. of A might require a military for, usually defending our interests – which could mean anything from organizing disaster relief to causing disasters needing relief, it all depends upon one’s perspective. My father was drafted in 1957 and served stateside. His father was drafted in 1943 and served in the Pacific. My grandfather was thirty-two years old, with a wife and eight-year old, when he was pressed into war and came back three years later. He’d be a hundred and two years old right now if he didn’t die at age eighty-seven. If I recall correctly (I was ten in 1973), age eighteen was the minimum draft age… so someone forced against their will to fight in Viet Nam would be, 40 + 18 = 58.

If you’re at least fifty-eight and a vet, hat’s off and thanks for your sacrifices!

For the rest of you after that, maybe not so much. Now hold on! For you non-vets (99% of the folks who’d read this), you probably should’ve figured that out already. For those one-percenters, you will know exactly what I’m talking about and blush.

1. You signed on the dotted line… You signed on the dotted line to take orders and carry them out, no questions asked. No one forced you to sign on the dotted line and as such the choice has always been yours. And the game has a price: on queue you have to: wear a uniform,  eat, sleep, perform routine bodily functions, exercise, learn to kill, learn to survive, learn contempt for civilians whose freedoms you’re protecting, and so on. If you’re really lucky, you get your character and body built. You did not sign on the dotted line to learn a trade, there are much more economical ways of learning such things – and they pay real money right after the training’s over. Considering the abundance of economically-priced training programs that don’t require voluntarily signing your life away, the only reason you really joined the military is to learn how to kill people. ‘Cos that’s what you learn and you are supposed to learn how to do it well. General Patton was serious about killing the other poor dumb bastard being the job of the soldier. And considering the abundance of war-porn out there on the web, in the movies, in the press, everywhere, um… you did realize that it’s all about killing, right? That’s what weapons are for, you know… And yes, I respect the right of the solider to complain as being divine, but…

2. More bang for the buck. You can’t keep a good man down in the military. If there’s one thing that’s true, that’s it. Even the near-moron who puts his (or her) name on that line will more than likely get their first real chance to be good at something and thus become upwardly mobile. Even if it’s just taking out the trash or digging a hole or taking your laundry in, once you get good at it – that means the Sergeant who’s making your life miserable recognizes that you’re good for something – you’ve arrived. Translation: you’re finally listening to orders and doing your level best to carry them out. First Sergeants are masters (no pun intended) at the system of punishment-reward and if you’re smart and want to move up, you’ll let yourself be another successful experiment. Of course just being good at taking out the garbage doesn’t mean your good at much of anything else and that’s why you’ll get placed at the front line or worse. What’s worse? Being a REMF , that’s what. At least in the front you have the chance to be slain in battle – which is honorable. But… look, if you didn’t know this already (civilians only), you’ve just not read enough history. See, there’s a serious dark side to recruitment that I suppose has been around as long as the production of cannon fodder, but it’s gotten the attention of the right people maybe too late. There is serious gang activity in the US Military And it makes sense: free training on killing, advanced weapons, leadership, discipline, survival and so on are just the things one needs to survive in the cut-throat world of big business, especially the illegal drug trade. The next time that 30-year-old “veteran” is busted for drugs or something worse  remember the passing “thanks for your service” you may have mentioned… Maybe they should say “thanks for giving me the opportunity…”  before they put a cap in your ass or blow up your place of work.

3. Sacrifices I.  Military pay isn’t close to that of a lawyer’s fresh out of law school, but it’s not too bad. Plus, there’s housing allowances, clothing allowances, incentive programs for saving lots of money, special shopping centers, lots of training that’s “free” – when you have the time, all medical, dental and vision care, if you’re in combat you don’t pay Federal taxes, and so on. And when you get out, there’s all sorts of programs, from college, to hiring preferences… Wait, it gets better: you get to take your family with you – sometimes around the world and your kids come back home as polyglots.. But… if one does the right web search, one will find story after story of military families on food stamps. Most of those I have seen (and some I have met!) are the Specialists (E-4) with big families. Folks, folks the world is upside-down: an E-4 has no business having to be responsible for a family! What is wrong with these people? Wait until you make at least SFC and have some cash stored up! But it happens. Thanks for your service and adding more folks to the welfare roles… For you liberal pukes out there with your fake outrage over what you wrong-headedly take for my callous hatred: doesn’t progressive thinking make is appropriate to incentivize zero population growth? What easier place to start than with the lower enlisted ranks. But thanks for your sacrifice, anyway. Those civilians out there who waited several years until they could afford the responsibility a family requires really appreciate the way you’ve guarded our freedom after signing on that dotted line.

4. Sacrifices II. More and more, military officers are marrying each other. And they’re sometimes even deploying together, somehow General Order Number One is accommodating. These dual military couples (that’s a web search term, check it out!) get even more benefits than the PFC’s family on welfare I mentioned above. And there are the maternity benefits that kick in should (or when) the wife in the couple becomes pregnant, they’re pretty good! For the female officer who’s pregnant – you can serve up to the point where, I guess, you really ought to be taking it easy… Thanks for your service – and keeping the military gene pool pure for the future generation of military officers.

5. Sacrifices III. Getting your limbs blown off is terrible and shouldn’t happen to anyone. If there’s one thing we should be doing is providing the right kind of medical support to wounded veterans, no matter how old they are. That is certainly something you’re supposed to get for signing on the dotted line and it’s something you do, in fact, get. …but I will go there. Keep in mind that our military personnel, from all ranks, are capable of high competition in triathlons. They are exceptional athletes. What they may have lacked in talent by birth, they’ve more than made up for it through intense endurance training. What happens when an iron man (or woman) loses a limb or two (again – that is horrible, I’m not making light of it at all)? In recent years, in addition to the best therapy in the world, the best doctors on the planet, at a cost of maybe more than six million dollars to the US taxpayers, are rebuilding them back into competitive athletes . Which is great, but if a god-damned insurance company won’t pay for repairing a non-veteran civilian’s old injury at a comparable nominal cost because it’s a pre-existing condition, somehow I keep thinking-twice about one man’s sacrifice being another’s fortune. Yes, I do know there are some damned horrific injuries sustained by soldiers that will require a lifetime of care – that’s why we have the VA, a Government Agency to be looked on with reverence, but it’s hard, really hard, to empathize with a bionic man. Save your anger and see the last part of this essay, please, after you’re through.

6. Sacrifices IV. Soldiers (and sailors and Marines) die. They die in training accidents, non-training accidents (like civilians), in combat and by suicide. I would agree with Stormin’ Norman that one is a tragedy, I can’t ignore that they happen. If it’s your job to kill people while they are trying to kill you, the odds of you getting killed are better than those, say, for.. oh, anyone else. Regarding suicide, I know for a fact that the US military has an excellent outreach regarding the mental health of its personnel, active, reserve and retired. I also know that one has to consider a number of factors, quite well explained here, regarding suicide in the military. The biggest one is, like the civilian population, men are better at it than women and since the military is mostly an all-male organization, unlike the general population of the United States, the suicide rate is skewed accordingly. Regardless, we either make excuses for the suicide – because we cannot know what truly is in his head, or we as a society look upon it as a sometimes tragic waste. As a digression, for example, I wish actor George Sanders didn’t off himself at age 65 in 1972, had he stuck around for ten more years – or more, who’d have made a better, more evil Emperor Palpatine? Back to the subject… According to a news article, the suicide rate for divorced or separated soldiers is highest, at 19 per 100,000. Not to be callous – I am not – there are, at the time of this writing, about 1,500,000 active military personnel (that’s less than a million behind China). At a rate of 19 per 100,000, that would mean we would lose 285 this year (if my math is correct). Most are senior non-commissioned officers (i.e., the higher ranking sergeants), followed closely by the lower-ranking enlisted. This would seem to mirror the general population of the US as suicides among the working class and poor are apparently higher than those of the middle and capitalist classes. If you want some seriously depressing reading, check out what the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has to say in the way of statistics. Suicide is a real tragedy and the US Military is taking a proactive stance addressing it; as there’s no shortage of Americans out there who are thanking military personnel for their service, it’s not because they’re unappreciated, it’s far more complex. If it were only the regular redeployments (you signed on the dotted line…!), then for every 19 who had no other way out, there’s 999,981 out there who were able to successfully deal with being away so much, what was their secret?

7. Officers I. Don’t get me started on officers… too late.  If there’s ever been a class of Americans more institutionally privileged than anyone else, it’s military officers, especially those who’ve graduated from the military academies. It’s a very, very special person who makes it into those schools and they don’t generally come from the ranks of the lower-income, working class brackets (I said “generally,” of course there are exceptions). These are the kids who do great academically, athletically, and socially. They are high-performers in high-performing, well-connected families, oftentimes children of high-ranking military officers themselves or perhaps children of former military officers who’ve done exceptionally well in the business world. And in preparation for a lifetime of running things, officers are trained pretty much to take orders without question, to give orders without being questioned, and to keep their asses out of trouble. The better one is at keeping out of trouble (correction: being caught ) the higher one will rise. The number one way to stay out of trouble is to take orders without question. People who ask questions are exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior and thus aren’t team players, get rid of them. And who the hell are you to question my order, anyway? Ever meet someone like that? These Ubermenchen (and Uber-frau) do astonishingly, astronomically well with what their Creator and Country have liberally given them. It only makes sense that they should be rich and in charge… oh, and don’t forget to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

8. Officers II. May God richly bless those officers who worked their way up from the military ranks (the mavericks) and those who took the ROTC route after college. The latter is a great way to pay off those pesky student loans one may have needed had one not gotten a scholarship. But… it doesn’t matter, they’re not and never will be as good as an officer from, say, West Point. That’s the way it goes. So let’s add an inferiority complex to the associated megalomania a quality officer needs. Never, but never, question an order from these guys…

9. Congrats for getting this far. I do not begrudge the professional military man or woman (hmmm, maybe I do, a bit…). What I have a real problem with is the apparent entitlement  my fellow citizens give them without really considering what’s been traded for the military life. I will say again and again: you voluntarily signed on the dotted line and thus were provided incredible opportunities – many of which are never available to the general public, like playing with machine guns and wearing a uniform. Where is the “thank you, taxpayers” day from the active military for all of us who did not serve, either by choice as is our right or because a medical condition wouldn’t allow one to join? I’ve yet to meet one from the former group that regretted never signing up and didn’t care what a military man says or thinks, the latter group is a different case, generally looked upon by solders as inferior, worthless and weak – not good enough and probably ungrateful… but I speak in generalizations. I definitely say thanks for the service of those who fought like American soldiers should: hard, lawfully and to the death – of their opponent, but it’s getting a bit tired in these last days.

Epilogue: if I have upset anyone with this essay, beyond the usual people I regularly upset, feel free to express yourself in the comments, even though I think you’re wrong. Having an opinion and being able to express it in print is one of the many awesome blessings being an American is all about. And isn’t that one of the freedoms our military protects? I am not so sure. The attacks the US has received  that provoked the current state of world affairs deserved swift, brutal military action. Paving Afghanistan was what I had in mind, but I should’ve been careful what I wished for. We have paved Afghanistan; that country has some excellent roads thanks to the US taxpayer’s deep pockets. I have also seen with my own eyes the seriously astonishing benefits and opportunities available (and taken advantage of) to the active military. I have seen, as well, first-hand, the pain that the military families express when their deployed loved one comes back dead or horribly disfigured – which isn’t often, but always tragic. I have also been on the receiving end of the contempt some military folks – including their non-military families – have for me, since I’m, well, not one of them. I don’t deserve it and neither does any law-abiding, tax-paying American, ungrateful or not. Thanks for your service, but you’d better appreciate that we’re thanking you.