Yesterday was the 235th Birthday of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps Birthday is a big deal for Marines… a really, really big deal. I had only one person say “Happy Birthday Marine” yesterday and that was Little Fawn’s mother. For new readers, Little Fawn is my 16 year old daughter. I can’t recall ever having written about Little Fawn’s mother on the ol’ blog.
Of course, my momma raised me right though. “if you can’t say anything nice; don’t say anything at all.”
Anyway, it was surprising that she sent me a text message wishing me a happy birthday but more so that she ended it writing, “thank you for what you did.” I’m assuming she meant “for your service” where it said “what you did.” I don’t know maybe she meant something else more personal to us.
So today, on the social interwebs much of the same is being said to many a veteran.
“Thank you for your service.”
I don’t know how to react when people say that to me.
I guess i don’t know how to react because I didn’t do it to serve our country. I did it because I wanted to marry a girl I’d fallen in love with and I knew I couldn’t support her and myself being a waiter the rest of my life. I knew by joining the military we’d have steady pay, a roof over our head and medical benefits.
I can tell you with utmost confidence that a majority of kids (yes, they’re kids… 17, 18 and 19 year old kids) who sign up for the military (at least from 1997 to 2000 when I was at the recruiting office) signed up for college money, to learn some job skills or because they had no other real options. I don’t know if it’s different ten years later with a couple of wars going on but back then their “service to our country” was for purely selfish reasons.
And although I never served in a grunt unit for more than a week or two in my entire eight years of service, I can guarantee you, those young men and women who find themselves in a firefight aren’t fighting and shooting back thinking “I’m so glad I’m serving my country”.
No, they’re thinking “I gotta kill that god damn mother fucker before he kills me so I can get back home!” They’re thinking they’ve got to protect their buddies back and if they’re an NCO or field officer they are NOT thinking of service to their country. They’re thinking, “Please God let me get my men back home to their mom in one piece and standing on their own.”
I’m sure there are many (probably a majority of people) who are genuine when they say “thank you” to a military member.
But to me it comes off as somewhat feigned. It seems as though it’s laced with a bit of self redemption. Almost as if asking forgiveness for indirectly sending our boys and girls into harm’s way.
It also reminds me of those people who raise their hands and sway when singing gospel hymns in church. In doing so they are proclaiming, “Look at me! Look at me! I can feel the holy spirit!” By the way… don’t do that.
With that in mind, it’s as if by saying “thank you for your service” it’s tinged with “look how patriotic I am. I support our troops!” Tell you what. You want to support our troops? Write your congressman and tell him or her to bring them all back home because I can guaran-god damn-tee you no one likes to be on the receiving end of a rocket propelled grenade.
I remember when I was at infantry training (although I was a journalist, all Marines go through a few weeks of basic infantry. Unofficial motto of the Corps: every Marine a rifle man) there was a Gunny who said something to the effect of: he hoped that in training us he could put himself out of a job. The only reason he has a job is because there is war and hopefully someday there would be no more war and thus he would have no job.
I guess unemployment is a small price to pay for peace.
Good night Chesty Puller!… wherever you are!