by Gil Gonzalez
I’ve been putting off writing this blog. The Random Writers prompt for this week is, “Using a military theme (in honor of Veterans Day), what is one change you wish to see in the world?”
You know that feeling when your teacher tells you to turn in your assignment and you thought you had an extra day but you really didn’t, and you realize at that moment you don’t have anything to turn in? Or when you’re in a meeting at work and someone asks you for a status on your deliverable and you realize you haven’t done jack with that deliverable since it was assigned to you?
That’s me right now. I’ve got nothing.
Let me sprinkle my requisite caveats on that last statement. I have the upmost respect for the women and men in uniform who protect and defend our great country. I have a heart full of gratitude and admiration for all the brave soldiers who have served our nation, especially those who sacrificed during times of conflict. I look at them all knowing I cannot do what they do.
Yet I sit here not having a clue as to how to approach this week’s topic. I think it’s a matter of genuinely not knowing the environment about which I am supposed to write. My knowledge about our military is peripheral at best, limited to the depictions I’ve seen in movies and television. Anything I express would be a mostly uninformed opinion, and I fear it would be more of a disservice to our troops than anything else.
That being said, if I had one wish for change in our military, it would be to use our troops as defenders of the innocent. From genocide in Africa to repression in Asia, there are voices that are crying out for freedom and justice around the world; voices that are silenced by the tyranny of evil. If it were up to me, I’d use the might of the greatest military on the planet to protect the men, women, and children fighting for their own personal freedoms, and to ensure their voices are heard. We’ve seen flavors of this in the past, most recently with our country’s involvement in Egypt.
Still, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if that would be a prudent thing to wish for. I keep thinking about this scene from the HBO mini-series ‘Generation Kill’ (like I said, movies and television). A battalion of Marines encounters a throng of refugees along a road in Iraq. The officer in command, Lt. Nate Fick, assesses the situation and relays the following information to his Sergeant. “Look. We don’t know who anyone is. There could be a suicide bomber among them, so stay frosty. Keep your vehicles at a walking pace, and – this is important – keep your distance from these people.”
The scene continues with various soldiers succumbing to human instinct and deciding to allow the elderly and the children to ride on their vehicles as opposed to just watching them trudge along. A grunt walks by clutching a newborn in his hands. The Gunnery Sergeant asks him if he’s okay. With eyes that appear to be welling up with emotion, he responds, “Yeah, Gunny, I’m good. We’re helping people.”
The grunt walks by and Lt. Fick looks disapprovingly at his Gunnery Sergeant and says, “This humanitarian stuff. We get lost in it, we’re not combat effective.”
And there lies the rub. Would I wish for the soldiers of our country, the defenders of our freedom, to lessen their effectiveness in name of humanitarian efforts? It’s a dilemma for which I am not sure I have an answer. It’s a question that can easily be argued on both sides. We, as a nation, should do what we can to prevent the tyranny of evil from spreading. Yet it is this tyranny that is unpredictable, and I know I sleep better at night with the knowledge our troops are eternally viligant for and prepared to fight against such tyranny.
So, instead, I wish for the continued recognition of the women and men in our military. I wish that every time we see a soldier in uniform, we take the time to thank them for their service and dedication. I wish that even though we operate with the knowledge our military system is far from perfect, our troops feel a level of compensation in the honor we bestow upon them.
At the very least, that’s something I know I do correctly for them.