Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Some Don't Get The Insult

The whole Onion thing came up and came to an end really quickly, which is wonderful. The CEO of The Onion wrote a note to Uncle Jimbo over at Blackfive explaining that wounded warriors weren't the object of the satire, and acknowledging our feeling that they missed the mark. Again, I congratulate them on taking our word for it and removing the video.

Allahpundit apparently didn't get it, either. I don't know what Allahpundit's military background is, if any. I am inclined to believe that he is a well-meaning civilian with no military background. He felt that the video skit was lampooning the Pentagon and the Generals. I and my brothers and sisters don't see it that way.

It would have pissed me off either way, because either way it is based on something that I find offensive. When viewed through my eyes, the video was lampooning the desire that the wounded have to get back to their units and be part of the team that they were on. When viewed through Allahpundit's eyes (and those of some of his commenters, or even one commenter on this post over at Bouhammer,) then it is about lampooning the Pentagon for taking advantage of our poor, helpless wounded by sending them back to combat.

Therein lies the rub. This post isn't about The Onion. It's about that attitude.

What attitude?

The attitude that we are in some way victims. Warriors are not victims. We resent being depicted as victims of the enemy or of the Pentagon or of the administration. We are volunteers, we are professionals, and we are committed to our nation and our Constitution, but especially to our team members in our units. We are not victimized by being sent to war, and if we are wounded we are not injured victims but wounded warriors.

There is a difference, and it is huge.

Earlier this year I wrote on a couple of occasions regarding a series of articles in The New York Times that portrayed returning veterans as hapless, perhaps dangerous, victims of this war. The first (that I was aware of) came out while I still had several months on my tour in Afghanistan. I was incensed, and I wrote about it. The basic violation of my values (and it turns out a few others) was this belief that somehow we are victims. Movies like "Stop Loss" only add to this depiction of soldiers as pawns in a larger game that wantonly wastes the lives of its unwilling victims (us) like some massive meat grinder. Personally, while I understand the disappointment of a soldier whose term of service is involuntarily extended, we all take that risk as well. It says in the paperwork when we enlist that we can can be extended for the duration of the war plus six months. At least we are not subjected to that.

This is going to be a long war.

Now, there are those who have whined over stop loss. There are those who have deserted during this war. There are those who have refused to go, and there are those who have refused to go back. There are those who have come back and joined "Iraq Veterans Against the War." One of the founders of the IVAW wrote a book entitled, The War I Always Wanted." complaining that he wanted to fight in a different war, that this one didn't suit him. With 1800 IVAW members out of hundreds of thousands that have served in both campaigns, I'd say that our whine factor is pretty low.

So yes, there are whiners and sheep who choose to be victims; but 99.9% of us are not. Some of us had to go to extraordinary lengths to go and serve in the GWOT. Some were called. Some have had rougher circumstances than others. Some had "easy" tours, and some not so much. You can't pick where you serve, usually. In Afghanistan it was luck of the draw. There are guys who itched for a fight who never got one and some who got one (and more) and would have forgone any of them given a choice. But they know exactly why they didn't have a choice, and no one that I know would have forgone those fights if it meant that the rest of their team still had to have them.

There are people who don't understand how a human being can consciously make the decision to go and serve without compulsion. There are those (and you can find their comments at the links above) who don't understand the difference between sacrifice and being sacrificed. There have been tremendous sacrifices made during this war. Over 700,000 man-years have been sacrificed. Limbs and minds have been sacrificed. Lives have been sacrificed; all risked by their owners as adult citizens. You see, there is no honor in being sacrificed; but there is tremendous honor in sacrificing. A lamb who is slaughtered is just a dumb animal whose life is taken for whatever purpose; there is no honor in that. A soldier's sacrifice is a risk willingly taken or a year (or more) given through choices made, and there is honor in that.

When we wear a uniform outside of the battlefield, part of what it symbolizes is that risk of loss; that our years, our time with our families, our limbs, our minds and our lives are on the altar of freedom (because I'm not too cynical to use that phrase,) not that they are willingly forfeit but that they are willingly and knowingly risked. The combat patches and badges are symbols of sacrifices that have been made. The Purple Heart is the highest symbol of sacrifice made. That risk is the very root of the honor of wearing a uniform and that sacrifice made is the root of the honor of any of the accouterments.

So, to those who would steal our honor through their inability to understand those fundamental differences, who fail to grasp that those years, limbs, minds and lives that were made sacrifice or risked by their owners by way of willing choice, I say, "Listen. You may not understand it, but please accept it, and please stop robbing us of our honor by acting as if we are sheep unwittingly led to the slaughter. Stop soiling our uniform with your failure to accept this. Just listen."

3 comments:

  1. I tried to explain earlier how hard this hit me...right between my civilian eyes.
    Light-bulb moment.

    Your ability for intensely clarifying 'honor', 'duty', 'responsibility', 'choice' et al, that a good soldier is (and a good citizen should ) be defined by, very much adds to my pride in those who serve our country.
    You help me understand so much better. And you do it so effortlessly. Thank you, Blue.

    (nice pic, too, btw ;-))

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  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/16/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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