I just wanted to write this on Veteran's day to commemorate the veterans in my own family and in keeping with the holiday. In a way, I just kind of wanted to get this off my chest because it's been bugging me all day. My uncle is a higher up in the military and my mother was in the Air Force. I also have cousins who've served, and both of my grandfathers served in the Korean war. It's a family thing. Like I said, this is a diary to commemorate veterans, but to have a hard discussion about Americans and war. This is a long post and its a bit heavy, so be prepared. If you're a veteran reading this, I thank you for your service, and I do not mean these words in an offensive manner at all.
You see, I've never served.
I have never served and I'm probably not going to. My mother expressly forbids it and my uncle says the military is not for me. I thought about it still. It's in the family. My uncle did three tours (special ops) in Vietnam doing...well crazy shit he can't tell me, my mother ran a relief effort in Indonesia for Vietnamese refugees and my grandfather joined the military to get the hell off the farm. Yet there I was, across from the military recruiter with a clipboard. When I was considering signing on the dotted line, I decided it'd be best to know what I was getting into. You see, I was disgusted with the Iraq war, I wondered why Afghanistan lingered on so long, and I've always hated how Americans, going all the way back to the Spanish war, have been so bloodthirsty and willing to massacre people for inanimate objects, believing somehow that God was on our side or something. Reagan disgusted me and I saw Republicans as chicken hawks, men who would never go to war and were consumed with fear, but loved the military because it represented everything they lacked as human beings. I may seem like the least likely person to be sitting across from a military recruiter.
I'm basically the "evil liberal" you read about in a lot of military blogs, the kind that thinks that war is completely awful. I weep for Afghan civilians and Iraqi children that will be born with horrible birth defects because of depleted uranium. I'm not a big fan of Israel. I think it's good to be critical of military brass and the loss of civil liberties that have resulted from the Orwellian war on terror. I might come off as hating the military or hating this country, but that's not it. It really isn't. I could never hate my uncle or my cousins. I don't hold stereotypes about the military. It's not necessarily rich people having poor people fight their battles. A lot of people in the military have college degrees and do combat duty just because they want to kill the enemy. When I was sitting across from that recruiter, my research had flooded back into my consciousness and I knew why I would never sign.
Many veterans will come back this year and have mental injuries that will weigh so heavily on their minds that substance abuse or suicide will be their only outlets. Some will have no limbs. You see, war is the cessation of civilization. War is sending little children in with hand grenades knowing they'll be mowed down, using women as shields, baiting the enemy into bombing civilians, and forcing people to fight who do not want to. War is the arena where people who actually enjoy killing people flourish while those who want to find another way fall by the wayside. War is where profiteers profit from the bravery and self sacrifice of men after having convinced them that there is an "enemy" coming after them. War is rape. War is losing your limbs. War is accepting the inevitability of your own death and going slowly insane for it. War is domination. War is genocide and massacres. War is watching your friends die.
I decided not to sign on the dotted line. I told myself I was too meek, too gentle, too nice. I couldn't hurt anyone. Even if they were evil. Even if they were the Taliban who flung acid into girls faces. I was too weak. I'd just be another suicide. It's not that I believed in pacifism it's just that war wasn't me. My uncle saw it. I could never bayonet someone or cheer about getting "my first kill." I wouldn't be able to recognize myself. I didn't even believe in the wars. Why was I even sitting there? I thought about it. I felt I wasn't much of a man if I couldn't sacrifice myself for my country. I also felt it was selfish of me to come up with excuses not to participate when my fellow countrymen were fighting. You see, even though these are all the negative aspects of war, there are also positive ones as well.
The military is also about service and brotherhood. It's about putting others before yourself, even people you don't even know, people who may hate you or misunderstand you. There are horrible people in the world and they do need to be fought. I don't weep for Taliban soldiers who terrorize villages. Civilians do die in the process, but sometimes in the end it's unavoidable. Being in the military is about doing things that aren't normally possible, and also in many ways bringing hope to people who never had it before. Nothing is all bad or all good.
On this Veteran's Day, I pay my respects to thousands of men and women who did serve, who saw and did things that were unspeakable but were also glorious. These people deserve a day of remembrance and for us to do just as the President has called us to do, to remember them and to make a pledge to them to fulfill all of our promises to them. I have never served. I may in fact never serve. Whether or not this reflects negatively on my character is my own personal battle, but on this day, you have my full support.
Thank you for your service.