For obvious reasons I am connected to a number of military and veteran blogs and social media profiles and lately I have found a disturbing trend. Too many people glorify dying for their country or the desire to do so. On a picture of flag draped coffins on a cargo plane one person put the caption, “Some day.”
I get it. Every recruit and gonna be has visions of facing the enemy with 299 of their closest friends all for the glory of Sparta. However, that is not how things work. Every combat death is a tragedy. The fact that the United States has created people willing to serve is what makes us strong, not the ones that die serving. In fact, not having those people around weaken the country.
Think of your average service member. A young man or woman that has a desire to serve his or her country. Some have the idea of going to college to better themselves and see the military as a way to make that happen. In a month and a half, young men and women will descend on my city and do a lot of property damage in an effort to stick it to the man. In the end, they will only hurt the person making minimum wage that has to clean up the mess or misses out on making money while the business gets fixed. Meanwhile, the corporation has insurance and the CEO buys a new yacht. Which person, the service member or the protestor will do more for their country?
Now, more than ever, our nation needs hard working, disciplined men and women that have a good work ethic and no sense of entitlement. That is who we need in this country, not some of the current young people we have today. These are the kind of people we need to grow up and raise children with good values, not a generation of Kardashian spawn and Honey Boo Boos.
Back in basic training my drill sergeant asked who was going to die for their country. Many hands went up. “No,” he yelled, “You make someone else die for theirs.” While he stole that from Gen. Patton, it has resonated with me. I have zero desire to die for my country. That doesn’t mean I won’t deploy and do my job, it just means that I want to come home alive. My daughter is better off with me in her life.
I saw a commercial for a reality show where an autistic kid said, “I love you Jenks, I would die for you.” His friend returned the sentiment and then the kid added, “I don’t really want to die though, it is just an expression.” I am not sure I have heard a more genius statement.
As a journalist I look at word choices carefully. When I see people talk about willing to sacrifice their life or limb for their country I can’t help but disagree. I am not willing to die for my country, I am not willing to lose a limb, heck I am not willing to take a bullet for a friend. Who wants that? I am, however, willing to risk it.
Combat is inherently dangerous, I know that. I have no problem with going to a distant land where there are people that want to kill me. I’ll ride on choppers to remote villages to do my job, but I fully intend to come home each time. I have understood the risks. If you go down, I’ll be the first one to yell, “cover me” and run out to drag your ass back to safety. I am willing to RISK getting wounded saving you, but that does not mean I want to.
Anyone that wants to die for their country is missing the point. Your country is not better off without you and the honorable service of our brave men and women is not increased by their death. If you think that, please walk up to SFC Leroy Petry and tell him that what he did was cool, but it would have been better if he had died. I will hold you while he hits you. Does anyone think that our country is better off without people like Chris Kyle? Of course it isn’t.
What this country needs is every service member to come back home, work hard and do their part to make our country strong. We need them to come home to their kids and raise them with values. I understand the desire to have a death that means something, but we need young warriors to become old warriors. It is what is going to get the country back on track.
Each combat death is a tragedy and should be treated as such. We should remember the fallen and respect what they have done for our country. A combat loss should be mourned, not coveted.