Fair Specimens of Citizen Soldiers
While I did not write the editorial in the New York Daily News, retired Captain and VMI graduate Shannon Meehan did. I concur with his sentiments.
I generally disagree with CPT Meehan (Ret.) in his political positions, but he makes some valid points. I too dislike how our society has come to view vets as either “heros” or psychos, when the vast majority fall somewhere in between. Many vets, and in many ways I would include CPT Meehan, seek to perpetuate these impressions.
Whe I first heard about the parade, I was surprised and puzzled- the idea had never occurred to me. But to many of the younger troops, this may be an important public appreciation for what was called an “illegal” war.
I returned in May 2007, at the height of the surge debate and politicians already calling the war lost, and KIA routinely over 100/month of the previous year. Democrats had recently overwhelming reclaimed both chambers, largely on an anti-Iraq platform.
I returned to RIC airport by myself (my unit was out of NY), arriving to a dark terminal at 2330. My wife was the only person in the terminal (she did have a case of cold beer waiting in the car!). But starting the next day, my “regular” life resumed, almost as if I were some sort of Rip van Winkle on deployment for 18 months. I lost that time and there was no transition between them.
Coming back wasn’t exactly easy, but I had a wife, 2 kids and a career to get back involved with. A 19 or 20 year old may be more likely to need some public appreciation to help them reintegrate.
I know the feeling. It’s jarring to say the least. Twelve hours after I got home in 2010 I was shoveling my walk and parking pad out of two feet of snow, laid down in the blizzard during which I arrived the previous evening. Altogether I felt very much out of place. Thus began probably the worst year of my life. I would not have wanted a parade, though. Not at all sure what I would have wanted…
I’d rather have a couple of bottles of 20yo scotch. I got paraded out at VMI, and that was reinforced at many changes of command goatropes. Just me.
I’m glad this was brought up after hearing of the discussions in the news.
A comment was made to me early on in my career by a senior officer when I began to question whether a young Marine “deserved” an award for something meritorious while in garrison. It’s stuck with me ever since. He mentioned that most of the young Marines in our care would only serve 3-4 years and move on – no “career”, no “advanced schools”, no formal military schooling. In other words, the time they spend in the corps is finite and would form their entire perception of their service. They will proudly go back to their communities with that simple letter from the General or that bit of cloth on their chest… that small gesture by the Corps will be cherished not only by them, but will be cradled as if sacred by their children or grandchildren who will always be told that granddad or grandma was recognized for doing something REALLY special in the Corps. …it doesn’t matter if it was for single-handedly killing 89 taliban with a plastic spoon or reorganizing the motor-pool gear locker – it all holds the same impact the their family or community. It’s important.
So the parade functions in exactly the same manner, except, that I personally feel that this is needed by the “nation”. We need to return to celebrating openly the martial virtues that built this county and have sustained it. We also need to reinforce the service member as victorious, capable, strong, AND returning from wars not as a victim or broken person.
Finally, it provides closure – and boy doesn’t that feel good after some trying times. Think this country could use some closure right now to move on to bigger and better things.
Do it all over again when Afghanistan ends.