First, on this Veterans’ Day, let me pay my respects to the men and women who served our country-in peacetime and in war-including those who were in my family. And respect to those who are currently active here at home and abroad. What I’m about to say is not an attack on you, but a personal thought.
Now, that our celebrations are winding down and we have laid our last wreath, hoisted our last flag, shot off our last 21-gun salute, and played our last martial piece, I felt it was my time to speak.
I was in the military myself-as an Air Force ROTC cadet. I had my field training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California back in 1982-between my Sophomore and Junior years. Although it was a great experience, I never could quite fit into the military world. I never was sworn in, nor did I pursue the military after graduating from college. This has been an issue that’s haunted me for the last 3o years.
I felt as if I’ve lived with some stigma for years-especially around friends and loved ones who were Vets, or are active in the military. For years, I’ve felt as if something was wrong with me; that I was less than a man for not sticking it out. Even at times I felt as if I disappointed a lot of loved ones who may have hoped I did go in thinking it would do me good.
It was hard to watch military programs and documentaries because I felt as if I was not part of that crowd. that I could not tell my “war stories” to others. Of course I wasn’t eligible for the GI Bill when I went house hunting, and I won’t collect any veteran’s benefits (though I was paid for my ROTC time).
It’s even harder when you live in a culture that gets off on the pornography of war and militarism. Even American Xtianity has been bitten by the militarism bug with all its militaristic imagery (never endorsed by Jesus). You feel as if you don’t count.
This is very hard for me to write, since what I’m about to say may hurt a lot of people; but it must be said. Not all people are cut out to be in the service. Some of us-whether it’s upbringing, choice, or whatever-are not going to fit into that life. That being said, I realize that I made the choice I made 30 years ago when I didn’t stay in the ROTC program. I probably could have made a fine officer and may still be in the Air Force today. However, that wasn’t the case so people just have to fucking deal with it.
I’m just as much a man as the cat in uniform, in some cases probably more so. I watched cats come out of the service and wound up on substances and trash their lives. I’ve seen people who never picked up a gun stare down the devil himself without batting an eye. Maybe it’s my “pacifism” that’s helped my creative and spiritual side to blossom in me. Maybe my not cutting it in the military put me on a path which gave me the insight to create this blog and to awaken divinity in me. That my not being caught up in the jingoism and the flag-waving allowed me to step outside and look objectively at our military culture.
As far as any family and “friends” out there who feels as if I’ve “disappointed” them, guess what: deal with it. I’m not here to make others happy by being what they think I “should” be. God has blessed me with people in my life who don’t give a rat’s shit about being in the military who accept me with love; in fact some of them hate the military.
Also, I’m seeing a culture that’s tiring of war and militarism; and I may be vindicated (smile). Thanks to Iraq, Afghanistan, and a bloated Pentagon budget, we’re seeing people tiring of fighting and slowly killing our world. People are sick of all the flag-waving and “God Bless America” while our nation’s infrastructure and society are in need of restoration. Now as the “greatest generation” is dying off, Vietnam vets are telling their stories (not all good either), and present vets are coming back to having to pick up their lives and start anew we may see this even more.
I’m learning today to accept what I’ve done with forgiveness and grace. I am complete because I have all that I need which God gave me. I may not have stories to tell, however my stories I share with you are my stories from one who’s gained a whole different perspective on life. I’m forgiving myself and moving on. I’ve decided that I’m going to move in a more peaceful and erotic direction; leaving the militarism and death behind. I will create rather than get sucked up in the jingoism.
I decided 30 years ago. I decide today. That’s being dangerous. That’s truly being a hero.
That’s being ME.