Memorial Day always puts me in a reflective mood, nothing unique I realize. The uniqueness is found in how each of us reflects on this day. Each year it is something different for me. I don’t go to the same thoughts each year. Some years it has been just about having a day off or a holiday some where. Many people get offended by that and say that it is a solemn day and should be about remembering the sacrifices made for our freedoms. But isn’t enjoying those freedoms, such as the ability to take the day off, the security to gather with friends and family, the abundance to BBQ, drink, play backyard games; aren’t those dynamic memorials to those that gave their life and their service for our country? As a Desert Storm Vet I believe they are acceptable ways to thank our military for protecting our Constitution.
What are not acceptable memorials to those that have and are serving are the despicable actions of some that are disgracing the uniforms they were given the privilege to wear. ( I want to stress some because we as human beings have a tendency to demonize a entire group of people over the actions of a few, and I will not be like that). In the last year we have seen “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” finally repealed and we have FINALLY seen the stupid restrictions on women come crashing down. Yet we are also getting more and more insight into the real truth of what still goes on in the military. Just like any other part of civilian society, just because there are laws or policies against something, that doesn’t mean peoples ideologies, beliefs, or tendencies change. Racial discrimination was made unconstitutional in the 1960’s, yet racism,bigotry, and racial violence and beliefs persist. So despite the changes, there will still remain those that believe gays and women do not belong in the military. And there will always be those that have violent tendencies regardless of their beliefs and will find women the easiest target for their sociopathic personality.
What boggles my mind is the continued reports of incidents involving not only higher ranking individuals, but individuals in leadership positions supposedly to prevent the very violence they are accused of inflicting! And over the last few years the reports from various military institutions and training facilities, of those charged with training and molding our future soldiers, raping, harassing, and assaulting those under their command! And of course the recent report released showing 26,000 unreported acts of soldier-on-soldier violence. Which I guarantee is not a high enough number either because there are still those that won’t even acknowledge anonymously that something happened to them. These are the things that I believe disrespect the memory and the sacrifice and the service of our military.
The purpose of boot camp and training schools in the military is to train the individual out of you. You have to learn how to set aside who you are as a person and learn how to become part of a unit and work as one. You are trained that every action, every step has a consequence. “Attention to detail” is a motto everyone learns. If you can’t learn how to fold your underwear in a specific way in boot camp, then how can you be expected to learn how to follow specific steps and procedures out in the field and not get someone killed? You are taught not to think of yourself, but to think of the person on your left and your right. To think of the person in front of you and in back of you, because they are doing that for you and that’s how you are going survive in the heat of battle. For some reason it seems some are not comprehending that you are supposed to set aside the individuality of others as well as your own.
Male or female, gay or straight, Christian, Muslim, or Pagan, black, white, or brown, we are all one. We are all part of the same purpose, the same call, to protect the constitution and the freedoms encompassed in it. We don’t protect the people of this nation as individuals. We protect what this country is and stands for as a whole so that EVERYONE has the opportunity to be the individuals that make this country as a unit, sooooo amazing. It’s a perpetual cycle kind of thing. It’s time to start holding accountable those that are unable to to set aside others individuality. They disgrace the uniform so many have proudly died to wear. It is time that “zero tolerance” is no longer just given lip-service during mandatory training sessions. It is time for values such as integrity, honor, and respect for your fellow human beings to be required when a uniform is worn. It is time that the attackers and bullies are called the “boat rockers” and not the ones who are brave enough to stand up and hold their attackers accountable for the actions.
This may seem like a very strange way to reflect on Memorial Day. I do so because I was attacked when I served. I was stationed aboard an ammunition ship and a shipmate attacked me in port about a month after I got there. It wasn’t a sexual assault and at this point the details don’t matter. It is the aftermath of the attack that haunts me sometimes. The attack itself wasn’t as horrific as what others have endured, but they way I was treated afterward by my shipmates and those in command; that is a legacy I share with far too many others. I understand all to well how so many have to “soldier on” despite being betrayed by the very people they are supposed to trust the most. The ones they are trained to entrust their lives with. Nothing like being on board a ship, in the middle of an ocean, on the other side of the planet from everyone who loves and believes in you, and be surrounded by 300 people who see you as nothing more than 19 year old lying whore. I think that was my first lesson in believing in myself despite everyone else.
Yes, I am absolutely remembering those that have died protecting the privileges and freedoms we all enjoy. I am also remembering those like me who are spouses or children or parents of those who currently serve. I’m am reflecting on all who have answered the call to set aside their individual liberties for a few years or an eternity for a greater good. But most of all I am reflecting on and praying for those who are serving and sacrificing in silence. Those that are soldiering on in spite of the actions of others. They are my heroes this year. They are the brave ones.
And I want to ask a favor of anyone who reads this post; please pass it on and share it via any social media you wish. I ask this not for myself; my intent is not about myself, but about finding a way to let anyone out there serving in silence right now know that you are not forgotten and you are not unknown. Those of us back home do know what’s going on and we will hold accountable the policy makers and military leaders here back home. We won’t let them sweep this shit under the rug. We will fight for you as you fight for us. As free citizens of this amazing nation it is our responsibility to do this. And it is the best way to honor and remember our military.