Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day; ‘yea’ or ‘nae’ for those who do their military service?

I never served in any branch of the military; that fact doesn’t make me the least bit unique.
How many will gather at Chicago's Vietnam Vets' memorial? How many even know it exists? Photographs by Gregory Tejeda
There are many who for whatever reason manage to avoid a stint in the Army or any other military organization, and certainly don’t think our lives are any less complete as a result.

OF COURSE, THERE also are those in our society who made a point of enlisting the first chance they got, and wind up thinking of their time in uniform and being among those who “serve their country” as the high point of their lives!

Some even come away with thinking their military record entitles them to prime treatment for the remainder of their lives.

We have a serious schism in our society; often viewing various issues quite differently. And not just a matter of whether we think Donald Trump is a “great American” or a “pompous fool” totally unfit to be carrying the title of Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s military!

That split includes how essential we think it is that one have a military service record as part of their permanent record, or how much "lip service" they pay to the concept -- I attended a Catholic mass that included a musical tribute to the armed services in its choir's Sunday program; and while many were eager to support the idea, only a tiny minority of the congregation admitted to actually having served. Which gets down to the essence of the direction we think our society ought to be headed.
No dogs allowed?

THERE ARE THOSE people who will say that one reason, if not the primary reason, that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were unfit to be president is because they never served in the military (and in the case of Clinton used many of the legal maneuvers people of that era engaged in to avoid a call-up to active duty).

Some of an older generation remember back to the military draft, and think that forcing people of various economic and social classes to interact helped ease the societal split that now exists.
Posters or helmet -- which is 'your' side?

Although others, including those who managed to avoid military service, would argue that the very concept of having done a stretch in the military puts a person into a mindset that makes them too narrow and unfit to address the serious problems confronting our nation, and our world.

Perhaps we all ought to be engaged in something more than blind faith in forcing esoteric concepts of what one wants to define as patriotism by a trip out to the cemetery to pay tribute to someone who was unfortunate to have lost their life during their military service.

SOME OF US like to talk about the “ultimate sacrifice” those young men made, I’m sure many of them could have contributed something equally worthwhile to society had they had a chance at a long- and full-life.

While many of those who these days do enlist in the military often do so because their options in life are limited; and that military stretch may be their best option for preparing for an adult life.

I remember in my own case, my mother would have been appalled if I had seriously talked about enlisting. I remember when Army recruiters sniffed around me when I was 16 and in high school, she gave them the cold shoulder.

In my case, that probably was a wise direction. I did make the most of a college education, and it stirred me in the right direction toward what I wanted to do (yes, I actually figured out as far back as age 13 that I wanted to be a reporter-type person). I resisted the Army’s marketing pleas to “be all you can be.”

WHILE I HAD cousins who did stints of military service, and it helped them come up with the funds to pay for future education options they took on or taught them some skills used later in life. It worked out well for them, and I’m sure for many of the individuals who have done military service.
Easier to eulogize past conflicts?

My point in stating all this is that I’m not about to hold it over anybody’s head that I didn’t have to use the military to get ahead in life. Meaning I’m not about to defer to those who want to act as though the fact that they did a stretch in uniform somehow makes them superior.

I actually find such an attitude to be arrogant and unfit for anyone to have in our society. Particularly because it places a view that one can claim superiority for doing something that may well have been their only realistic option in life.

And on this Memorial Day when we pay tribute to the contributions of military personnel throughout our history, perhaps I should even throw in that having such an attitude perhaps even qualifies as un-American!


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