What Military Service Means to Me

Marine Corps Semper FidelisToday is the celebrated birthday of the United States Marine Corps. The Second Continental Congress established the Continental Marines on 10 November 1775. Their original mission was to board enemy ships, provide shipboard security and enforce on board discipline.

Beginning in 1798, the Marine uniform consisted of a high stiff leather collar designed to deflect slashes to the throat. This collar became part of a slang term of ridicule by sailors, calling Marines, “leathernecks”. The term stuck and is synonymous with anyone that is a Marine.

I reach out today and wish my fellow Marines a happy birthday!

Tomorrow, 11 November, is remembered as Veterans Day, a day to celebrate those who were willing to risk everything they held dear, to serve and often fight to preserve liberty and aid others in the right to choose their own destiny. There isn’t a more noble cause than to recognize all who set aside their hopes and dreams in order to achieve some level of safety and security for other people. When U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for 11 November 1919, among the words he said were; “… it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

I’m devoting the rest of this blog post as a response to an article by David Masciotra on 9 November 2014, titled “You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy.” I don’t know David, he may be a very nice person, but that doesn’t exclude him from my critiquing what he has to say in his Salon magazine post.

He goes on to say; It’s been 70 years since we fought a war about freedom. Forced troop worship and compulsory patriotism must end.” “Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man, give him a gun, and Americans will worship him. It is a particularly childish trait, of a childlike culture, that insists on anointing all active military members and police officers as “heroes.” The rhetorical sloppiness and intellectual shallowness of affixing such a reverent label to everyone in the military or law enforcement betrays a frightening cultural streak of nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism, but it also makes honest and serious conversations necessary for the maintenance and enhancement of a fragile democracy nearly impossible.

As you can see from the words I quoted from his article, he’s not bashful in expressing his opinion. My first thoughts after reading his article; what a simple, warped mind, and limited understanding of the world in which he lives.  It illustrates something many of us know about people who express opinions with a voice of authority but are empty rattling cans of foolish thought.

MCB Twentynine PalmsA strong military is one of necessity, just like a police force in a community. If everyone wanted to live in peaceful coexistence then we could either greatly reduce or eliminate these vocations. As it stands, people are indeed childish, selfish, manipulative and dangerous. Humans have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to go tribal and barbaric on each other to the point of creating and using what ever weapons they want to destroy or control other people. The U.S. military has been used in ways that may not always reflect the best human values but even in places he names, Iraq & Afghanistan, the goal has been to curtail regional violence and allow the local government to be selected by the will of the people.

In research conducted by David Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, he wrote an article titled “We Are All Confident Idiots“, describing this phenomenon in detail. “In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

bookAfter reading what David Masciotra wrote, it clearly identifies a problem with his type of supposed expertise on the topic. His posted ramblings about not honoring men & women who have served honorably in the military, suggest that which is apparent, David Masciotra doesn’t know Jack Shit about people who serve in the military. Veterans Day is intended to thank veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country, not a statement on American foreign policy, or a tribute to those who have committed criminal or barbarous acts. He claims anyone willing to put their life on the line when they volunteer and serve in the military, belong to the same class of people who are mindless brutes who are looking to use this as an opportunity to sexually assault women. What he uses as his basis for theory, are the featured news items of atrocities committed by people in military and police uniform. What he doesn’t seem to get are the fact that these are outlying behaviors of humans. The same acts of violence, sexual assault and controlling others are found in the civilian world. Nothing justifies this behavior, but it shouldn’t diminish respect toward those who honorably serve.

American foreign policy can and should always be scrutinized for intention and conduct, but rather than use a generalized skepticism and maybe even hatred toward those who serve, Mr. Masciotra should turn his attentions to examining his own willingness to dedicate a substantial period of his life, serving others in conditions far less favorable than his routine living. I might even go so far as to say, what right does he have to criticize those who have or now actively serving based on some superficial mischaracterization of the behavior of the majority of good servicemen and servicewomen?

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
– Arthur Ashe