One of the things that frustrates me the most about our current political debate, is that not enough emphasis is placed on the long-term effects of armed conflict. Time after time, we gloss over the issue of a war, and who voted for it, and why that was a bad idea, etc.
The American people have become so shielded from the consequences of war, they are blind to the suffering of those who are affected, even here in America.
Less than 1% of Americans serve today. Maybe this is the reason that so many people can support political ideas that encourage war. They support politicians who are fueled by war profiteering corporations. They say “thanks for your service” but they don’t give a second thought to how their voting choices could turn those Soldiers into dehumanized pairs of “boots on the ground,” relegated to the bottom of the new screen while we watch main stories about rich people.
When you are a Soldier, who has been on deployments, and you are nearing your end of service, you may be excited about getting ‘free’ but you are also hesitant. You worry about how the outside world is, and if you’ll get a good job. You have to turn your military resume into “civilian” terms and learn about suits and negotiating your salary. It’s a lot, even if you didn’t go to war. But when you’ve been to war, it can be even worst
Deployments are long, and they are slow. With some exceptions, most deployments don’t involve copious amounts of direct combat and constantly struggling for your life. They are often boring, with moments of acute terror, and depending on your experience, just one moment from a deployment can impact the rest of your life. Growing yourself in these conditions really tests your will and convictions sometimes. When you get into the civilian world, you lose the bond that those tests established between your military co-workers.
The military is very closed off from the rest of society. When you are in the uniform, you don’t mix in well with the rest of the population. It’s to be expected; to be the service is to be committed to a very different life than most people would want. Naturally, your perspective would put you in a different place than everyone else. But the cost of this, is a mental conditioning that can last with you through the rest of life. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It has benefits too, if you’ve developed a strong work ethic or sense of duty. There is just also a downside, where you don’t think people understand you and you fight it very hard to be vulnerable with them.
Though the idea of being ‘vulnerable’ is generally thought to mean some kind of weakness, what it really represents in human interaction is the ability to fully communicate with others. To speak honestly, you must open up and reveal what is inside of you, and leave yourself open for the reactions that come with it. That is the only way to be effective, and it can take time to learn it in a new environment for a vet.
When you’ve participated in something so immersive and negative as actual war, you get a tiny bit off from where you your mind was adjusted before. I do not mean that everybody goes crazy. I just mean that your priorities can often change, and you can look at many things in life a lot differently; with more meaning.
One of those things is life. We only have one to live. Our wives, our children, our brothers and sisters, all have one life to live. The people we meet around the world, all have one life to live.
The reason that war is supposed to be the last result to any problem, is because we pay the most dear price you could possibly imagine: the lives of our sons and daughters and friends. We are literally saying that something is so important, and we are so sure about it, that we will engage in deadly battle with another entity. It’s a big deal. And the cost of it is lives, families broken, friends lost, a shit ton of money, global instability, massive waste, health catastrophes, and alienated citizens.
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
So whenever you take a small inventory to think about what is important to you, think just a little bit more about the troops. Look at your political leaders and assess their opinions on sending our people into combat. Ask yourself what kind of opinion you have on our veteran’s healthcare. Think about how some might feel about living in periodic gunfire and coming home to a crazed gun culture. I’m not saying we have to base all of our judgement based off these factors, but we shouldn’t take this pain for granted, because a lot more people will have to feel it if we get in more wars and make more enemies.
update: Don’t be like this guy.