The difference a decade makes

Exactly 10 years ago, I graduated from college. Pretty much nothing went the way I thought it would over the past decade. As it happens with everyone, I’ve realized how different the real world is, compared to the best case scenario that we present to young people.

I was joining the Army as a brand new officer. Back then, I planned to be a career military officer. I was going to go into politics after that. I was eager to start my job at my first unit, but also very aware that I would probably be deployed the following year. It was obvious to me then, how critical it was to win the fights in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. I ended up getting out of the Army on the earliest day possible, but I learned a hell of a lot.

The first half of the last decade, I spent a lot of time around troops; the Soldiers who make up the “blue collar” of the military. Managing people of greater experience, I learned a lot from them and developed an appreciation along the way. I’ve worked with people from very humble backgrounds and not all of them can be rich one day. But there were so many good people, and I can’t forget the troubles they had (and have now).

I’ve spent the latter five years trying to make up for being so wrong about the wars. As I have worked in a more bourgeois part of society, I’ve realized how disconnected we are from those who are serving overseas. We continue to expand our use of military force around the world, and rarely do we scrutinize the reason for doing so. We send men & women into fights for their lives for reasons unknown! And then when they return from service, broken, they struggle to secure the kind of job and healthcare they deserve.

Maybe I’m an extreme anti-war voice, but somebody has to be. The promising young people who fill our military ranks should be treasure more than this; more than casual thanks or being auto-called a hero. Maybe we should take an interest in what is happening to them. Maybe we should start asking why.

I may not have become this way if I never went myself. I am definitely less scarred than many of my brothers and sisters. But I wish so many of us didn’t have to learn the hard way.