Today at home, my father received the most recent issue of Time Magazine and I got my hands on it first. On the cover there were soldiers pictured in what looked to be a night vision-esque style and inside the index had a story entitled "The Other 1%."
This article was not about the typical 1% we are used to hearing about from the Occupy Wall Street protest but was about all of our men and women who are slated to return from Iraq. How ironic I think that "The Other 1%" was the title because these Occupy Wall Streeters are probably very against the war so it essentially is an insult to call these soldiers "The other 1%," but that's just my opinion. Anyway, these men and women have served our country since the Iraq war began in 2003 and some even earlier since 2001 when the war in Afghanistan began, yet to them it seems like they are returning home to a place they have never been to before, a land as the author of the article calls "foreign" like the deserts and areas they have spent time in during their tours. Some may argue that it is because of the separation now seen so widely between our military families and the rest of the country because of these "super-bases" they live on, which have everything they need so why leave the gates at all. Others also may say that it is because many of our bases are located far from the heavily populated areas and found in more remote regions like the southern states. Finally, the reason that I believe gives rise to this great separation and the author mentions as well, is that there is this great divide between the values that our men and women in the military are trained on and engrained about compared to those values we as the American public embrace. Those values are of HONOR, RESPECT and LOYALTY and they are what make our men and women of uniform who they are and represent ever so heavily why they do what they do. They serve with HONOR, they RESPECT authority and they are LOYAL to each other and the units they serve.
Meanwhile, back here in the land they are serving so proudly through their volunteer to service, we, in my opinion, have lost those values those men and women serve with and have actually become entangled in ourselves. There are the people absorbed in these protests of Occupying Wall Street or Occupying this city or that city. Then you have the people who are all worried about the economy and "Should I buy this stock or that," "Should this person be laid off today and that person face the pink slip because we lost this amount of money this quarter?" Beyond those two groups you have the college graduates who are solely concerned with finding jobs and doing something with their college degree because that's what Mom and Dad want and that's what my college instilled in me that "I HAVE TO BE SOMEONE." You also have the groups of people who are only concerned with "ME" I have to get here in an instant because "I WANT THIS OR I NEED THAT," and have 0 concern about anyone besides themselves and their bubble. Finally there is that last group of people who "JUST DON'T CARE." Beyond those groups of people there are the military families or families who have family who have passed away who fought in the military or there are those other families that have people who put on uniforms daily and work in Civil Service, and all these families are the ones who still hold those values engrained by the military in their lives or try to instill those values in their children.
Obviously I could easily be generalizing, but let me explain why I feel the above descriptions are rational and why I believe that these men and women are right in saying they are in a foreign land. Here we have kids who are getting younger and younger drinking underage, not having any parental oversight because mom and dad are too caught up in their own worlds so it leaves the kids not obeying authority and acting outright DISRESPECTFUL. I see it daily and weekly, from the 18 yr old high-school grad who instead of volunteering to help do chores tells their elders (elders in terms of 29 to 35 yr olds) to "GO F**K Themselves," to the kids who brag saying "We got so wasted last night and drove home and oh the cops stopped me but I got out of it because of my mom and dad." Where do the kids see this from? One place and that is HOME and MOM and DAD. Driving my delivery truck around I see a lot and hear a lot, and one thing I notice daily is how much people are CAUGHT UP IN THEIR WORLD AND THEIR WORLD ALONE. Drivers talking on their phones and blatantly driving slow and irresponsible because "Hey my conversation is more important than the safety of myself, the other drivers around me and well where I am going and who I am talking to is all that matters not that I am out doing an errand meanwhile this delivery driver may have stops to make before places close but I don't care." At home, mom and dad are on the computer or talking on their smartphones not paying attention to little Tom crying in the corner because he just tripped on a wooden block or Sally sitting at the kitchen table struggling to solve a simple math problem because it's just too hard. When Sally goes to school the next day and takes that Math test and can't answer a question and gets a bad grade, do mom and dad care, probably not because well they are caught up in work and their smartphones. Do these stories sound familiar? Am I generalizing? Maybe just a bit but to be honest I am not going to lie it probably started earlier than my generation, but now as I keep growing older and I keep seeing kids grow up I see a sharp decline in those values that the Military ingrains in its members.
Teenagers and young adults today are not RESPECTING each other, they are constantly thinking about their own benefit and not the benefit of those around them. They are not HONORED to have a life where they can go to the market freely and not have to wear a certain type of clothing and act a certain type of way because the government said so, they just expect this lifestyle. Finally they are not LOYAL, loyal to themselves keeping true to their word, loyal to their friends because they constantly backstab and talk smack about them behind their friends' backs, and loyal to others in general because they are two faced talking one to a person's face and a complete 180 to another person's face about that person. How then can you ask our soldiers most of whom are young adults themselves to come home to a place where the age group they are supposed to relate to does not share a single thing in common with them? Those kids their own age have no idea how to RESPECT AUTHORITY like they have been taught while serving, how to BE LOYAL TO OTHER MEMBERS OF THEIR AGE GROUP BECAUSE IF THEY AREN'T THEY WON'T BE THEIR DEFENDING THEM THE NEXT DAY, and finally how to HONOR THE FREEDOMS THEY HAVE BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW HOW BAD THEY COULD HAVE IT. Not only do they not share these values they also do not share the experiences these men and women are carrying home with them such as seeing a friend they have spent the last 4 months with day in and day out get their arm blown off by an IED or watching their roommate die because of a sniper attack.
Let me just end by saying this, appreciate what these men and women have done for us. Appreciate that they have spent 4 tours in Iraq and have now gone from having maybe a full working body to now having a prosthetic arm or leg or both. Appreciate the sacrifices they have made for us even if you don't agree with them being overseas, they still have volunteered to do it, because maybe just maybe they weren't as fortunate to have all the blessings you have had so they saw joining the armed forces as a way to get themselves a better life by serving their time and having the military pay for them to go to college because if they stayed home they were likely to end up in a poor life.
I ask each person reading this to just think for a second and say to themselves "Do I share the values of HONOR, RESPECT and LOYALTY with our soldiers? If I do then how can I show others how to do the same? And if I don't how can I begin to make a change to share these values with these men and women and help change society to make these changes as well?"