A Heartfelt Response. Not Your Everyday Astrophysicist. A 17-Year-Old Boy. Tea.

  • Two weeks ago, my take on our Generals from yesteryear generated many responses. In light of some people’s comments, I asked a former U.S. Marine to provide his take on our military leadership, and more importantly his overall thoughts of where we are with the deployment of our men and women. He was originally deployed in 2004, and subsequently served in Iraq. His roles and responsibilities included entry control point operations, where he would inspect cars searching for explosives, weapons, and contraband. I have been careful with my edits in order for all of us to clearly understand his perspective. Thank you to this week’s contributor. Your heartfelt thoughts, and your service to the United States, are greatly appreciated.

OK… So, the issue we are seeing with today’s generals are the same issues we see with a lot of enlisted. Since only 1% of the population serves into today’s all-volunteer force, they are clearly the exception. But in today’s military, some service members mistake exception with exceptional.

In a post 9/11 world, service members were lifted up by the press and by the public (obviously better than what the Vietnam vets got). But now, with social media, people are getting high on their own supply. So, officers become political figures FAR earlier than before. And since it’s an all-volunteer force, the political fallout is FAR less than the later stages of Vietnam where EVERYONE got called up. Now, enlisted can say whatever they want until it goes viral. But by then, they are low-grade celebrities. Officers say whatever they want but are politically protected. So, it’s a toxic mix. Ike (Eisenhower) had to deal with tens of thousands of deaths in a week. Now, three thousand deaths are considered a blunder.

The public also plays a role in this… Service isn’t the same. There isn’t a collective price to pay anymore. If you were an able male in the 1940’s and didn’t go, people judged you. In Vietnam, when CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officer) showed up with death notices, they would hit multiple houses on the same street. During the surge in Iraq, the only people who carried the weight were the families of those who deployed… Everyone else went to the mall. So, after a decade plus of war, most of America moved on.

Which meant people overseas felt overlooked, or worse, looked down on. So now we have a real toxic combination. When we had a collective price to pay, the officers understood the burden. A lack of social media meant they couldn’t just say whatever they wanted when they wanted. Even if they felt the same as officers today.
Can you imagine Patton with Twitter? Or Westmoreland after My Lai?
I’m sure we’d be seeing a lot of the same as we’re seeing today.

So short story long, we as a society have allowed too much war for too long and allowed the creation of a warrior caste. Fathers went to war, and in some cases, their sons finished it. Some vets feel superior to the civilian caste. They feel unheard, neglected, and they are ANGRY. This is what I hear directly from a lot of the guys I served with. Gary, I don’t know what is going to fix this. We need a LONG period without conflict to settle things down. We need to invest in the V.A. MANY times over. We need to allow more vets to get care outside of the V.A. to reduce pressure on the system. A lot of anger, a lot of hurt, and a lot of grief. All of that death, and for what?
We gained NOTHING.

The gate I guarded where I picked body parts out of a barbed wire fence? Where I was rocket attacked? Where I dug through cars looking for bombs? Iraqis run it. ISIS is 10 miles away from there. My friend who was in Afghanistan? Lost friends, translators, and his translator was left behind. A generation is realizing that our service didn’t benefit people here. No one here is more or less free. We didn’t liberate concentration camps. We didn’t end Fascism. We didn’t stop the Red Army from crossing the 38th parallel. All we had was each other and the love of our friends and family. Many vets feel used. Many more feel forgotten. I know this may not be what you expected, but the answer is very complex, and SO many things feed into it.

My body is broken. Two torn quads, calcium deposits in my knees, losing my hearing, MANY concussions, and enough bad memories to last a lifetime. I made a choice; I signed the contract. I’m glad I went, because if I’m not there, it’s an 18-year-old getting body parts out of a fence. I did what I had to do. But I’m tired of war. I’m tired of hearing from 25-year-olds who had 6 deployments. And more than anything, I am tired of vets who feel that their opinion is more valuable than a civilian. Because that’s who we serve. We serve the people. Not major corporations, not political parties. We have forgotten that.

  • I had the opportunity (privilege is a better description) of attending a lecture by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. I was obviously concerned that his content would be way over my head, but pleasantly surprised that he has the ability to present very complicated topics in a clear and concise manner. My original concern stemmed from watching the amazing series “Cosmos” – with deGrasse Tyson both hosting and narrating. An amazing series with tremendous writing and spectacular motion graphics, but a good bit of the content did not register with me.

Last Wednesday night, at the beautiful Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando, deGrasse Tyson dumbed-down a great discussion about the perennial mismatch between expectations of why the United States has fallen behind with our space program due to the geopolitical, cultural, and economic realities that limit it. His method of presentation is actually very simple, using his laptop and the theater’s large screen. He gave examples that were both eye-opening and humorous, and received a standing ovation after speaking for over two hours.

deGrasse Tyson spent a good bit of time discussing the U.S. space program, and why, in his opinion, we have failed to progressively enhance space exploration. His comments surrounded our competition in the so-called ‘space race’, with his strong feelings that the United States only benchmarks our programs against other countries. He suggested that the use of space vehicles for military or defense purposes was one way to stimulate the spend for the space program, and then reinforced his thoughts by showing the audience this video, which silenced the sold-out theater:

India has this defense capability in place.

The Prime Minister of India lamenting the fact that his country is now a space power amongst the U.S., Russia, and China, with the ability to destroy targets orbiting the earth. No wonder the United States established the U.S. Space Force, the space service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the world’s first and currently only independent space force.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture, just do it. You will not be disappointed.

  • Politics are energy-draining, self-serving and without a doubt partisan. Kyle Rittenhouse was 17-years-old when he made the decision to participate in a night of civil protest (unrest) in Kenosha, Wisconsin. On Friday, Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges in an incident where he killed two and injured one. Due process was served, and the twelve-person jury made their decision – for whatever their reasons under the circumstances. With all that said, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it was okay for a 17-year-old to place himself in this situation carrying a AR-15. People and their politics divided on the issues surrounding this case, with the real issue being a 17-year-old running down a street with a AR-15. Has the world just gone mad?

  • I’ll end with one of my favorite Ted Lasso quotes. To all my British friends and associates, no harm meant:

Adios, pay if forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday!

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