Saying you write about military issues is kind of like saying you write about sports. Every game, even every play within a game is fodder for a story, as is every member of the team. If your team is losing, a star player is involved in a scandal or the league that governs that sport has done something nefarious, even though you are generally a fan it can come off like a poison pen piece. But, if you are a true fan that means you are interested in everything about your team, the losses as well as the wins, the things that make you proud to be a fan and the things that make you cringe.
The teams I always root for, the ones which show me to be as nearly obsessive as the guys who display their shirtless painted bodies at a Bears game in January at Soldier Field are Team Military and Team Veteran. But, unlike those guys who surely have frost bite on parts that are useless on a man, my support is contingent. I'm not a fair-weather fan by any means, I just have expectations. Meet them, or at least try to meet them with honor and integrity and I'll stand up and waive my version of the giant foam number one finger, the American flag. I have and will most certainly continue to criticize the Department of Defense, the Pentagon, the leadership and even members of the rank and file when I believe it is warranted. I am not a simple blind believer that all things military or veteran are good. In other words, I have expectations.
I expect leadership to care about the troops first and foremost. I expect all members of the military, past and present, to hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior. I also expect that other part of the team, what in hockey they call the seventh man, to do his part. That means, if you call yourself an American or if you simply live in this country and benefit from the freedoms and rights we enjoy, you are required to support the team. That doesn't mean you support war, but you better not turn your back on those who are willing to defend your way of life with their life. I expect the civilian world to pay attention to the needs, to what is important to those few who have chosen to don our nation’s uniform, particularly when they come home wounded in body, mind or spirit.
For the most part, I’ve not been disappointed in Team Military and Team Veteran's seventh man. Often I've been moved, sometimes literally to tears by the outpouring the average Joe and Jane offer to our men and women in the services. I choose to be an optimist, I choose to believe if more people were simply aware of what our troops and veterans think, feel and need they would act to fulfill those needs. The problem is creating that awareness in a media world filled with the doings of sports figures, the personal lives of Hollywood celebrities and when all else fails, what the Royal family of England is up to.
I do not and have never served in the military so it may seem presumptuous of me to write on these topics. I am a mere civilian who, because of life events, has been granted access to the world of our warriors. But I’m not only a mere civilian, I am also a Gold Star mom. Because of this fact of my existence, I’ve been humbled by their willingness to include me in many parts of their world. Writing about the cares and concerns, the issues and challenges, the triumphs and the tragedies is how I attempt to repay a small portion of the grace they’ve shown me.
Some of the topics that will appear in the next weeks are contentious, and even disturbing. I don’t pretend to have all or even any of the answers to the myriad issues surrounding Post Traumatic Stress, for example. What I offer is opinion, the results of my own and others research. The intention is not to solve the problem, it is simply to open a dialogue to address some of the common and tragic misconceptions that exist in both the military and civilian worlds regarding this issue.
Because there are a limit to the number of personalities even I can hold in my head, I’ll be presenting some pieces that are little more than distillations of conversations with others. As the weeks go by, if there is a topic or perspective I’ve not touched on, or a personal experience as a veteran or member of the military you’d like to share, contact me. If you are a person who is anti-all-things-military and has somehow stumbled across this page, I invite you to contact me as well. I can’t promise I will air your opinion but since it is a point of view I truly do not understand, I am willing to have a conversation. Of course, if you’re just a jerk or a Code Pink wacko, don’t waste your time. I have a strong relationship with my delete button.
As each piece is published, it's link will appear on this page as well as on the front page of my blog. For now, I’ll end with a few quotes to ponder. The first explains why I unabashedly support our military. The second explains why I support our troops. They are two different things, our military and our troops, which itself is another point to think about.
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” ~ George Orwell
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” ~John Stuart Mill
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