Writing at Mad Genius Club, reflecting on Memorial Day, Jonathan LaForce (whom I'm pleased to call my friend) examined the way writers (and, by extension, other entertainment content creators) portray military service personnel and veterans. Like myself, he finds many such portrayals to be lacking. Here's an excerpt.
I grew up listening to the stories of the men who went ashore at Omaha and Utah. I wondered how they could summon the very wherewithal to commit such acts of heroism. I had those, the stories of those American boys drafted in Korea; my first Cub Scout Master was a brown water sailor named Rusty Gill with a bullfrog voice, tattoos on either arm, and the calm confidence of a man who had been there and done that times beyond counting. Chief Gill taught me how to tie hooks when fishing, how to cast a line and how to patiently reel in a fish when hooked so it would stay.
“You sure this won’t break sir?”
“Son, I caught fish off the back end of destroyers like this. It’ll hold.”
I remember going in uniform to the local cemetery, Memorial Day in 1999 with his wife to place flags on the headstones of service members buried there. I remember it because Chief Gill wasn’t there and I asked her why.
“Papa has a lot of friends who never came home from Vietnam. Some things are just too hard for him to handle.”
I wondered about her statement, until the day came when I learned the value of a brother’s life, and what it means to me. I understand now why Chief Gill felt that way. If he were still alive, I suspect that I’d spend Memorial Day driving to his house so we could sit and drink our way through a couple sixers of something cold.
My generation is split. There are the millennials who ... form the basis for a whole lot of caricatures about modern adults. I saw them in high school learning of Marx and praising his “brilliance”. I despised most of them, and they despised me in turn.
Time has not changed that disdain. They went off to study Marxism and how it will lead us to Utopia (hello Venezuela), I graduated from St. Chesty Puller’s Academy for Recalcitrant Boys. Others from my graduating year (2005) went off to the Fort Benning School for Boys, the Fort Bragg School of Hard Chargers. They wear maroon and tan berets, Manchu buckles, Cav spurs, Tridents, the caduceus of Corpsmen, even the Eagle, Globe and Anchor of my Marine Corps. We saw 9/11 occur, and determined in our minds that such should never again occur on American soil, that we would not carry signs at protests - we would carry rifles.
There's more at the link. Highly recommended reading for all military veterans, and those who love them.
My military service was on another continent, many decades ago now, in a different uniform: but the realities of military service, and of combat, were the same there as they are all over the world. I could identify with everything Jonathan wrote, even though I've never been a member of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. I've been part of units that I respectfully believe were just as rough, tough and nasty as the USMC when the chips were down. It changes you. Forever.
That's why I was so angry with much of the US mainstream media over the past week's celebration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. They didn't care one whit about the sacrifice of so many of our servicemen's lives. It was just another opportunity to bash a President they loathe, and poke snide remarks at those who weren't intelligent enough to avoid military service.
They had no idea what they were talking about.
If you'd like to understand more of what motivates those wearing uniform, you could do worse than start with Jonathan's essay. It's a good one. He's a generation younger than I, in terms of military service, but he carries the torch well that old farts like us handed him. I daresay his children, and those like them, will do the same.