An interesting quote by good ole Bill Shakespeare. I wonder if it still has its original meaning today? Over a few discussions with people, here and there, I get the feeling that folks who have never been in the military don't always really understand the life of Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. In some regards I wonder if people IN the military understand the life, as well. If we look at today's military compared to yesterday's...the average service member today is better educated, more worldly and far better treated. Is that a good or bad thing???...that is a one hell of a quandary. Unfortunately the sometimes overt sentiment I receive from "civilians" is one of disdain at "our" performance during the recent conflicts/wars. I'm shocked that they think that I (a LCDR/O-4) somehow have any "pull" in the policy making or war process development. I have to explain to them that, " I don't make policy decisions and neither do my immediate supervisors" and we as "operators" merely put those policies into action. Now from an "operator" standpoint...my belief is that we are kicking ass and taking names.
My father spent nearly 32 years in the military, serving in Vietnam and pretty much every conflict from Vietnam through Desert Storm. He was a straight-shooter kinda guy. A very smart...and a very tactful man. He knew how to tell someone to F**K off and make them feel good about it. After growing up in a share-cropping family in the northern midwest, he looked for an escape to a better life. The military offered that for him. For many folks, a constant paycheck and useful skills training is a huge lure to the service. For he and I, I think we found more. A brotherhood and community where you are challenged everyday. When I say "challenged" I'm referring to the "seeking self improvement" aspect. But sometimes you have to ask yourself: Was that generation better than we are? I applaud our young service members for entering the service during tough times. Knowingly dedicating a part of your life to the service of our country during wartime is commitment that most folks will not and can never understand the rationale of. The military has morphed substantially since the first time I raised my hand to give the oath...but I have the utmost faith in our people. The 70 or so people in my group deploying to Iraq are an amazing bunch. They are a group that are as diverse as any community, military or civilian. I will be serving with folks who are deploying to a war zone for their second and third times. WOW. I'm serving with people who will never be promoted to the next rank...but are still motivated and still love the job they are doing. I'm serving with folks who have been promoted so quickly that one wonders whether they have the experience to do justice to the positions they hold. Conversing with them for about 5 minutes will put your mind at ease...and you realize they were promoted so fast for a reason. As an "old guy" in the military you sometimes wonder about the "young guys" motivation. I will say it is alive and strong. In fact they adapt and overcome much more readily than us old guys. The military should have a 'bring a civilian to work day"...I think that would answer alot of questions and put reservations aside.
I am deploying to Iraq in a job that I am not necessarily trained to do. But being surrounded by the quality of people with me, makes the issue seem small. If I don't watch my back, one of these "young guys" is going to pass me up like I'm standing still. America be proud of these folks and support them through the good and the bad....because you have a direct hand in making the leaders of tomorrow.
My Dad was killed in a car wreck nearly 9 years ago. He never saw his only son fly a jet in protection of our country...but he had an American flag sticker on his car and always wore a patriotic ball cap. He loved this country and the service, even when it was not reciprocated. Guys like my Dad and his generation had alot to teach my generation. I only hope my generation can do the same for our "younguns".
The picture above is SgtMaj Kasal (center/wounded), awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Fallujah, Iraq while a member of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.