Thebastidge: The longest Journey starts with a single step
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    ********************Southwest Washington Surplus, your prepping supply store********************

    Sunday, May 27, 2007

    The longest Journey starts with a single step

    So, this is the first step on my Patriot's Journey for this year.

    On May 16th, 1990, I raised my hand and swore an oath:

    "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. "

    Although I have been released from active service twice since then, that oath has never been revoked or foresworn.

    One of the things that a lot of folks back home don't seem to understand about the war effort, is that everyone involved is a volunteer. They made a positive decision at some point, to participate in the defense of our nation and our way of life. Regardless of their individual opinions on individual topics, they made a decision that they would subsume their personal interests in favour of the public good, temporarily giving up some measure of control over their personal circumstances and lifestyle for the greater good.

    Most of our Reservist and National Guardsmen lose considerable income when called to active duty. Yet even the majority of them take multiple tours and re-enlist, knowing that chances are good they will not only be sent away from their families, into harm's way, and all for less pay than they normally make at their civilian jobs. Knowing that even though federal protections exist for their civilian jobs when they're called to duty, there are myriad ways around that protection, and that they may well be sacrificing in their civilian careers in order to do their duty.

    We haven't had a draft in many years. The modern military is a professional fighting force- meaning they make a career out of it, train for it, and consistently give a lot of effort- at least as much as any non-military group of professionals. In aid of that, recruitment standards have gone up so much that any other military force in history would not have had raw material this good in their officer corps, much less in its first-term enlisted ranks. Much has been made of the Army recently "relaxing" their standards and "failing to meet recruitment and retention goals". What people don't seem to realize is that these standards are far higher than college admissions; not always in academics, but definitely in work ethic and moral character. It's very difficult to get into the military with any kind of legal record more serious than a traffic ticket. Other things that will keep you out of the military are not completing high school (over 96% of service members complete high school, and only limited numbers of GEDs are allowed), drug use, mental health issues, or bad debt. If the Army has lowered standards, they are still consistently higher standards than those of society in general.The civilian population has about 83% of high school kids achieving HS diplomas.

    Indeed enlistees are often characterized as those who have no other choices in life due to economic straits, if not as sub-normal imbeciles with disturbing tendencies towards violence and a limited grasp on intellectual pursuits, even though actual demographics show a higher rate of education in even the enlisted ranks, than in the general population. In my old service, the Air Force, nearly 100% have a high school education, over half of the officers have advanced degrees, 85% of upper level officers have advanced degrees, and 74% of enlisted have at least some college.

    Even those who do recognize that our military is a professionally recruited and career oriented group, they may characterize them as "Mercenaries", never acknowledging the largely patriotic motivations of the majority. Most of the contractors here in Iraq are prior military, and some serious discussions I've had since I've been here indicate that, though we're far better paid than our counterparts still in the military, we largely would not be here without a sense of the importance of this mission, no matter how much they paid us.

    MANY of the military folks I work with are on their 2nd, 3rd, and some few even a 4th voluntary tour here in Iraq. Many expect and plan to come back- very little talk of getting out of the military to avoid follow-on tours.

    Yes, this is anecdotal. But in over 17 years of being in and around the military, I believe that military folks overwhelmingly believe in the importance of what they do- if not in all details, then at least in the larger sense of protecting our country. Far more than most civilians I know believe in the importance of their jobs. Which,as a side note, may account for some of the unhappiness that many people feel about their lives.

    I'm no advocate of Hallmark card sentimentality, but this Memorial Day, it wouldn't hurt to take a bit of time from the hectic "3-day weekend" entertainment to reflect on the real meaning of this holiday. Maybe, instead of heading out of town with all the other traffic, you go to the local cemetery where they're holding services for those soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines who have paid the ultimate price for the rest of us. A good explanation to the kids wouldn't go wrong either. You can't expect them to automatically absorb all the meaning of something they've never had much experience with, but they'll eventually be better adults for having started understanding it younger. You might ask one of those sad-eyed Veterans at such a memorial service to tell you some stories about their comrades who didn't make it home. It's not always easy or comfortable to hear these things. But you could consider it character-building.

    Tag: Patriot's Journey (with JimK, Scott, Lil, Doug, and our fearless leader Drumwaster


    Blogger Lil said...

    Well-said, dear friend.

    6:51 PM  

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