Happy Veterans Day – to all my fellow brother and sister veterans – retired and inactive duty vets and to the reservists and active-duty men and women of America’s armed forces.
On this Veterans Day – in fact, every day, we all should be mindfully thankful and appreciative to the men and women who have worn – and who are wearing the uniform of the Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard, the Navy and the Marine Corps – as well as those in the Reserves and the National Guard units serving here in the United States and those stationed abroad. Each person in the uniformed services either gave – or is giving of him or herself – often at the risk of being placed in harm’s way – and for sure in the separation from their own family and loved ones. We should be so grateful to our veterans for because of them, we can continue to enjoy the freedoms and rights and the sovereignty of our great nation – much of which many of our fellow citizens tend to take for granted. Sadly, there are those who would rather see our nation destroyed from within as has happened – and is happening – in other countries in the world instead of us here, peacefully and respectfully exercising our freedoms and rights to debate and solve our problems in respectable and civil manner and allowing our fellow American citizens to have those same freedoms and rights for which many who served and are serving in the U.S. armed forces have worked to protect.
Many Americans fuss over the politics behind the reasons for why members of our great military are stationed in another country or sent to protect or police a particular situation on foreign soil. Often many of those same Americans fail to see that in many instances our military has served – and is still serving as a deterrent on that foreign land and sea region to ensure that all that has – or is happening to cause strife and likely the internal destruction of another country does not find its way over onto our own shores and ocean areas. Except perhaps for the Civil War, much of the land you walk and drive on each day and the very beaches and ocean you play on here in the United States has for the most part, been spared the costs of mass interior structural damages and loss of life due to war. We have our military to thank for that!
Mind you, I am in no way suggesting that all of our past, present or future military presence and actions on foreign land and sea were or are right or correct, nor do I want to spark a debate over whether some military action we took as a nation was necessary. We must let history and future generations of our country and the world decide that – in much the same way we have judged past conflicts and wars of this world. We must remember and clearly acknowledge the fact that here in the United States all military actions are dictated by the political leaders of the American electorate. That would be you and me, dear reader! The persons whom we elect to govern and/or represent us on state and federal levels are responsible for selecting and approving appointments of those individuals who control and operate our military and where it goes. Our troops alone do not decide such things. Members of the armed forces are trained to issue and/or receive orders and carry them out. In the majority of cases, orders are executed without question; they simply have to be whenever lives are on the line and time is of the essence!
Many people are unaware that federally, Congress sets the number of people to be given and/or appointed to the rank of officer in our armed forces. Officers are people to whom the responsibility of command of various units and battalions on both land and sea are given. Congress is responsible for approving all officer appointments and certain high-level command posts assignments made by the President of the United States. Congress must also approve the funding of pay and benefits earned by our nation’s veterans – be they retired, inactive or active duty. So you see, Americans who elect the people to govern and make laws are, in a roundabout way, also hold some responsibility for how our armed forces is funded, operated and deployed. (Those are some facts I’ll bet many reading this article didn’t know!) At least twice before on this blog I’ve written about the responsibility which we, as citizens of this great nation, hold with regard to our political leadership and government. That responsibility does not stop simply because one doesn’t wear a military uniform or has never served in the military. Try to remember this next time you rant or hear someone else rant about the actions of the President, who under our Constitution, is the commander-in-chief of the military. Think about this the next time our president decides to deploy units to take the offense in preventing some terrorist action from coming to America, or decides to defend – in the interest of national security – a country that is an ally of the United States or when a decision is made by our President, with the backing and approval of Congress, to attack or go to war against an offending nation – particularly if such a defense or attack is for/against a foreign nation whose people and/or political governance or particular way of life you or many who think like you, may or may not like, believe in or support. Regardless of whatever you hear and see in the media, try to keep in mind that the picture of events is often bigger than we are told or led to believe. Often the facts are twisted or inaccurate and for various reasons under the sun, there is a shitload of propaganda – much of which is never good – if any propaganda can be good! Often there are national security reasons for it all. Most veterans and active duty military service members know this all too well for if they didn’t, there would most likely be a mass exodus out of the armed forces!
I would not be “keeping it real” if I led any reader of this blog to think that I believe that America’s military is without sin. Oh, believe me; I know from personal experience that it most certainly is not! I proudly served in the United States Navy for twenty years. I enjoyed my service and have done many things while in service to the land of my birth. If ever asked to go back in the Navy I would answer the call without hesitation. In the time which I served I have met many people from all walks of life and from many places around the world. I have traveled to many great countries and seen many things in some of those countries that make many of the problems of our own beloved nation pale in comparison. During various points of my career, I have worked directly with members from other branches of the armed forces of both the U.S. and those of foreign countries. I’ll be among the first to acknowledge that our military, like those of other countries, is not a perfect entity. It too is plagued with many social problems that are very similar, if not the same to those of the civilian populace.
The U.S. military is a regimented sub-society/sub-culture of America and therefore is governed, protected and operated by its own laws and procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) and the respective regulations of each military service branch. Most or all of the laws of the military are still subject to our nation’s constitution and certain other laws of the land. (There’s another fact I’ll bet many reading didn’t know!) For example, our military has people who suffer from both physical and mental illnesses – which includes depression, attempted suicide and other issues too numerous to mention. I’ll be the first to tell you from personal experience that the longer one stays in the military and/or the more exposed a service member is to battle, the harder it can be to transition and get readjusted or re-amalgamated into a new life as a civilian. It’s very hard. As you read the last two sentences keep in mind that it is an understatement. Thankfully, there are many programs in place – starting with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other help agencies not directly linked to the government that are available to assist any veteran with things like readjustment to general society, education, vocational skills, medical-related issues, financial concerns, housing and employment needs, just to name a few. There are also programs available to help a veteran with issues like alcohol, drugs and other issues related to substance abuse.
Of course as an American sub-culture, the U.S. military also has a shameful criminal element. Knowing this, I feel the need to suggest that a certain exemption from being respected as a veteran be given to those particular individuals who are in or who were formerly of our armed forces who have intentionally disgraced the uniform of my military brothers and sisters – be they retired, inactive or still in uniform. I’m referring of course, to those few individuals of our military who:
- have stolen and/or sold military intelligence and secrets to our enemies;
- have deliberately taken the lives of their fellow service members;
- were found guilty of other heinous crimes while in or associated with the military.
An exemption from respect and honor to being a veteran must also be applied most especially to those persons guilty of sexual harassment and sexual abuse of our uniformed women (and some of men – which you will rarely hear about) and toward those individuals who would practice any form of discrimination and hate towards their fellow service members simply because of gender (male or female) ethnicity, religion, ancestry or whose sexual orientation they simply don’t or cannot accept. I believe I speak for all of those veterans who are proud of their respective military branch of service in which they served and who worked hard to protect, honor and maintain the history, traditions and the respect of that military branch when I say that we too, are ashamed that such people served or are serving among our ranks. We are very sorry that they have brought shame and dishonor to the military which we ask you, our fellow citizens, to respect twice a year.
For more than 238 years our military, in spite of its own growing pains of racism, sexism and bigotry based on sexual orientation, has stood as an ever-faithful bulwark against domestic and international tyranny. Sometimes, it is ordered to take the fight over to where it first came – especially in those instances where a nation or a faction of some nation seeks to bring trouble to our deployed troops and/or embassy personnel or over onto our shores.
As we commemorate Veterans Day, let’s remember the service and sacrifices of the men and women who once wore the uniform of our armed forces and those who wear it today who have helped keep America free and strong. Again, this includes those persons who served in our Reserves and the National Guard. Try to remember that our troops – regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation (click to read LGBT Pride Month: What It Means To Me As a Veteran) or religion, are doing a very important, very hard and often thankless job, even if they don’t talk about it and even if you don’t know or understand what that job is or the decisions and orders issued by our government to perform that job. Those who have never worn a military uniform and served at least a year or more in the military can never fully understand or appreciate much of the work of our armed forces – let alone those men and women who, while in uniform were imprisoned and/or tortured in captivity, those who came home maimed physically, psychologically and emotionally, and those who were killed in action or who died from battle wounds and/or some war-caused disease, thus paying the ultimate sacrifice to a nation they cherished and loved. No, many reading this article cannot possibly know or understand life of a United States service person, which is even more reason for giving a veteran one’s utmost respect and recognition.
Today – and on any given day, if you know a retired or active duty veteran, please give that person a call or send a text message to thank him or her for their distinguished service. Better yet, after the holiday try to visit your nearest Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital, a VA medical facility or nursing/retirement home for veterans and ask to see a veteran who may be sick or lonely. Chances are you might make a friend! Your return “gift” for such a visit might be his or her friendship and the giving of some historical insight of what “really happened over there” when that veteran was at such-and-such a place during some war or conflict. We in the military often refer to those insights as war stories or sea stories. Such stories are always fascinating when they come from a person who was there! Listening to an older veteran tell such stores from his or her point of view – especially an uncensored story – one complete with all the foul language, sure beats reading a book or watching a Hollywood movie about it any day! Hearing a veteran tell a war story or a sea story – some of which are not always or necessarily about a battle but about general or common everyday military life, can trigger one’s imagination to a point that, if the story is listened to with patience (very important – particularly with elder veterans!) and with keen interest and care, the listener might come to believe that he/she were actually there with that story-telling veteran! I shit you not! On occasion, I’ve told a few of my own sea stories; I have lots more I long to share before I leave this plane of existence!
If you see a veteran, be sure to look that person in the eyes and say to him or her with all heartfelt sincerity, “Thank you for your service!” If you personally know that veteran you might want to consider asking follow-up questions like, “How are you doing?” “Is there anything I can do to help make your transition back into society an easier one?” Teach your children to do the same…and most importantly, teach them why. We veterans appreciate seeing and hearing signs of respect, interest and appreciation more than you’ll ever know!
My name is G E “RobFather” Robinson, Sr., United States Navy (Retired). I’m hoping that you and yours have or had a very happy, safe and enjoyable Veterans Day!