The military has a deep, dark secret that it’s afraid will get out. And if there’s one thing you expect from Outkick, it’s penetrating journalism that demands truth from its government. That, and dick jokes. But there are no dick jokes today, sir. Today, you learn the truth that the government doesn’t want you to know, which is that most of us in the military actually love our jobs.
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: military life sucks sometimes. Like, real hard. Deployments can be terrible. And coming back from a deployment, in reality, can often be worse than the deployment itself. I got divorced after coming back from a deployment, and while I can’t blame the deployment, it was at the very least a catalyst for our problems.
And for those of us in the Reserves and National Guard, balancing civilian and military careers can be excruciatingly difficult. Even impossible sometimes, like a juggling act, only instead of bowling pins you’re juggling babies, and one of them smells like maybe they have a present for you, and it’s in their diaper and it’s not a toaster.
But every job has its downsides. Plenty of people have to deal with crap every day. Some, even literally.
This evening after I write this, I’m going to meet a few of my best friends at an airport. Just after sunset, we’re going to get in a helicopter that costs something in the $21 million range, and fly the sexy beast of a machine around one of the greatest cities in the world, making a mockery of the laws of physics and gravity for a couple hours. And I’m going to get paid to do it. That’s what my “service” looks like today. Today, I don’t deserve your thanks.
And sometimes I get to walk the lane at a shooting range with my pistol, busting fifty or so caps in some terrorist-shaped pop-up targets. Sometimes I get to slip the surly bonds of earth, dancing the skies on laughter-silvered wings, upside down in a helicopter 3,000 feet above the earth, which I’m looking at through the roof of my cockpit. Sometimes I get to blow stuff up. And I get to do it all with some of the best people in the entire world. Most (ok, at least “many”) of them are modern day Spartans that combine Mark Twainian wit with the heart of Harry Potter. Each of them I’d gladly go to war with any day. I get paid for all that, too. By you, actually, if you pay your taxes. So, thanks!
And then there’s this 8-year-old I know. She’s super funny, and when she smiles at you, everything in your world is immediately ok, and she stays at my house every other week. The other day I was tucking her into bed and she looked at me and said that her favorite t-shirt is one that her brother handed down to her. It says, “My dad is my hero.” I mean, come on.
After 9/11, it became popular to talk about how terrible it was to be in the military, and how we should all be glad that there are poor saps out there willing to be in the terrible military for us. There are lots of statistics about public perception of quality of life in the military, and how that perception took a nosedive after the towers fell. I think it’s because people started being reminded every Thanksgiving and Christmas about how many poor men and women there were around the world away from their families, and that support the troops gratitude is warranted. But there’s someone else who deserves your thanks during times like these FAR more than me and my gun-shooting, helicopter-flying friends.
Each of you probably knows someone who has served. Picture them now, if you will, running through Afghanistan Rambo-style, with a machine-gun blazing in each arm, freedoming the crap out of some insurgents. Now, do they have a family? Great. Picture their spouse, only instead of machine guns, this person has dueling toddlers on each hip, and instead of dispensing freedom, they’re handing out school lunches, and meeting with teachers, and dealing with diaper presents. Then picture your friend’s parents. They’re sitting by the computer, hoping to hear the Skype ring so they can know that their Rambo is still alive.
Then picture little Rambo Jr. He’s six years old and idolizes his dad, and sleeps every night with a pillow that has his picture on it so he can remember what he looks like. And sometimes he lies awake and cries because he knows the bad guys that his daddy is fighting have guns, and he saw a movie today where some people got shot, and he’s not sure if his father wears armor or not.
This Memorial Day, be glad that your friend Rambo exists. He or she makes your world a better place to live by dealing with the suck that comes with long weeks (and weekends!) training, and a life away from home, and deployments, and missing kindergarten graduations. But they also get the fun stuff. So if you’re looking for someone to thank today, look no further than the families you know who have sent their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters off to maybe never come back.
And think of those families who never heard the Skype ring again. Those especially are the ones you should be thanking.
I know one of those families, and if you’d like, you can thank them today for their tremendous sacrifice by sending a check made out to the CPT Marcus R. Alford Sr. Memorial Scholarship Fund to Regions Bank-Village Green Branch, 1144 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN or calling 615.452.5063.
Find me on Twitter @fastacton.