_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Thanks, But It Was Never About That


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
-- John F. Kennedy


I was at the hardware store.

I needed parts for my in-ground lawn sprinkler.

The irrigation system came with the house. Like everything else that came with the house, the system was a kludge – and that’s probably an insult to kludges. I’d spent two years fixing and replacing the mess left by the previous owners, from faulty wiring to leaking, poorly installed plumbing to cheap watering heads no doubt purchased from every bargain bin for three counties around. Given that my lawn covers four acres in the boiling Florida sun, it’s a project. I’d gotten to most of it, but I’d left one original sprinkler head on the far side of the front yard. It seemed to work okay … right up until a week ago when it suddenly blew out of the ground and was replaced by a geyser of high pressure water shooting 20 feet into the air.

I shut the water off at the well and went to survey the damage.

It was a muddy mess, a dirty hole in the ground surrounded by sand and ruined plants, the failure caused by the usual hash of mismatched parts, poorly fitted together. The previous owner was some sort of accountant. I hope he was better with numbers than he was with plumbing. I dug it up, cut out the bad assembly, cleaned off the feed pipe and went back to the shed for the appropriate replacement parts.

Naturally I didn’t have the one PVC joint I needed.

Naturally.

I invoked the standard profanity laced prayer to the Gods of Foolishness and headed for the hardware store.

And so, there I was a few minutes later, covered in drying sand and mud, holding a handful of plumbing parts, facing the cashier.

Cashier: “Military?”

“Retired,”I answered reflexively.

Cashier: “thankwewferyersevich.”

I made some sort of non-committal grunt in response.

This is the social contract we veterans have with America nowadays. The tedious hoop we have to jump through, that awkward moment at every checkout. The words are empty, it all runs together, a required part of the spell necessary to make the banking system process your debit card, I guess. The cashier just wants to get through their shift and get paid, I just want to fix my sprinkler. Thankyouforyourservice nothankyou haveaniceday youtoooo, you mouth the incantation without thinking.

Well, most of the time.

The cashier did cashier things, giving me a discount, I guess. Then…

“No,” he said, “I really mean it.”

I can make it through the empty thankwewforyourservice. It didn’t used to bother me much, and I wrote about that a few times, but in the last few years it’s just everywhere. And this is where I don’t want to be. Right here. Talking about my service with some random person in public. I just want to fix my goddamned sprinkler. Like every other civilian schmo.  I just want to be that guy, the guy who can walk into a hardware store in America and buy plumbing parts without it being part of some enforced national narrative on military service. But no. Now he really means it and I have to be The Humble Veteran. Aw shucks, Citizen, it weren’t nothing. Grateful to serve America, kill some commies for Jesus. Ooorah! Anyone would have done it.

That’s what is expected, right?

What I actually said was, “Thanks. Appreciate it. I'm in a hurry here.”

I wasn't, in a hurry. I just didn’t want to be rude. I just wanted to buy my stuff and get out, go back to fixing my yard. I didn't ask for the discount. The cashier noticed my haircut, or my bearing, or that my debit card was from a military institution, I don’t know. And that's fine. Being a veteran should maybe be good for something other than a limp and a bad attitude, I guess, and I'm not such a jackass that I won't accept a couple of bucks off the price. I can use it. And I do appreciate it. I do. I don’t expect a discount. I don’t demand it. But if it’s offered, sure, I’ll take it. Why not? Not like the benefits of being a veteran are all that spectacular, wealth wise.

Look, I'm not trying to be an ass and I'm proud enough of having served. I spent 20 years at it. I'm certainly not ashamed of who I am or bitter about it or disgruntled or PTSD'd or whatever.

But how I feel about my service is … complicated.

And it’s personal.

And it’s my business, not yours.

More, it's not the only thing I am and right now I'm just buying parts for my sprinkler system and I don't want to be reminded of certain things, again, for the tenth time today by yet another random cashier. I'm not offended, or angry, so much as just tired of the ubiquitous inanity of this mandated ritual every damned time, of being thanked for my service over and over. I got it, America. You're welcome. Let's move the hell on now. Please.

But, of course, we can’t. Move on. Because this is America and this is our collective guilt trip.

He didn’t take the hint. He went on, “I don't think the military is appreciated enough in this country.”

I didn’t respond. Because anything I could have said would just make it worse. And, as noted, he’d already missed the hint.

“It's just a shame the way the military is treated.”

He was obviously waiting for me to agree. And it was like fingernails on a blackboard. All the shit I don’t want to think about, there it is. In my face. I just wanted to fix my fucking sprinkler, instead I’m ambushed with this bullshit and now I’ve had to do this dance, again.

I just wanted him to shut up.

But he wouldn’t.

“You guys deserve...”

It wasn’t the thanks.

It wasn’t the thanks. No, it was this. This narrative. This is what always comes after the thanks. This. This neck-deep conservative bullshit, pushed by people who never served themselves, this never-ending attempt to co-opt my service into martyrdom for a political ideology built on lies used to diminish other Americans.

You look at my haircut and you think I’m one of those assholes and I’m sick of it.

That’s what it is.

That.

And so I did answer him, “Just, goddamn, man, stop. Just stop. You don't think the military is appreciated in this country? Seriously? There are two national holidays dedicated to the military and I don't know how many state holidays. None for teachers or doctors or peacemakers. But two for the military and they're trying to turn all the rest of them into some statement on military service too. Every town in this country suddenly has some sort of park or monument dedicated to veterans. There are parades and fireworks and TV shows. There are two Executive departments of our government dedicated to the military. TWO. We spend more than 50% of the national budget on the military. Every car has one of those idiotic magnets on the back of it, or some sort of bumper sticker. I can see three of them from here. Every goober in this store is wearing some sort of military shirt with eagles and guns and flags on it. We idolize the military. It's a goddamned fetish! (I might have been shouting by this point). What the hell are you even talking about?”

He wasn’t particularly taken aback, I think he wanted the argument, “Well, liberals are...”

There.

There it is.

Well, liberals are…

Oh, yes. Liberals. That’s the problem.

Maybe you didn’t see it coming, but I sure did. Because I do this dance multiple times every day. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about gratitude. It was about using my service to make some shitty political statement.

And that’s where I ended it. “Just stop. Fucking stop. Give me my receipt.”

And I walked out.

And by then I was too fucking mad to finish the job I’d started and the lawn had to wait another day.

He was young, 20s maybe, old enough to be serving himself if he felt so strongly about it. But, of course, he wasn’t. Serving. They never do.

Maybe I should have been more patient and maybe ... I don't know. It's not my job to deprogram these damned zombies and detox the conservative talk radio bullshit out of their systems.

The military isn't appreciated in this country? Fuck me.


If only education, healthcare, the environment, or people, were "unappreciated" half so much.


But it doesn’t end there.

Of course it doesn’t.

I’m a writer.

And I write about politics.

I write about the cultural narrative.

I write about things that hurt me, because that’s how I deal with them.

And so I wrote about this. A shorter version of the above story appeared on my Facebook page and as a thread on my Twitter feed.

And for the last four days, it’s been viral across social media, viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

I got a lot of feedback. Some good. Some not.

I shared some of it on Twitter, because Twitter is designed to make such comments easy. I didn’t post the feedback to Facebook, because it’s a lot more difficult on that platform.

I’ll share some of that here, because it’s important to me that you see it. The reasons for which will become apparent by and by.

Now, before I do, I’ll remind you that it wasn’t about being thanked. Not really. And if it had ended at being thanked, or not thanked, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

"Thank you for your service."

That’s what the cashier said, like every other cashier.

I acknowledged it. I did. I wasn’t a bitter curmudgeon it. He said thanks, I nodded, or grunted, or whatever. I didn't profusely thank the cashier for his thank you or break down in tearful gratitude and a heartful rendition of Lee Greenwood’s Proud To Be An American, but I acknowledged his appreciation. As I said, if it had ended there, there wouldn't have been posts on social media.

But it didn't end there.

I acknowledged the thanks. And I acknowledged it the second time he brought it up as well.

I said I appreciated it.

After that, I don't want to talk about it. It makes me uncomfortable for reasons that are none of your damned business – but I’ll explain anyway here in a minute.

That doesn’t matter though, does it? My comfort. That’s something else I have to sacrifice as a veteran. America needs veterans to be symbols, heroes, not people, so my discomfort doesn’t matter – so long as you feel good.

I don't claim to speak for any other veteran.

I told you what happened and I told you how I felt about it. Me. That's all.

I didn't tell other veterans how to feel. Hell, I didn’t even demand that Americans stop thanking random veterans.

And again, because I’ll have to keep reminding you, it wasn't about being thanked. Or not thanked.

But can you maybe see that some of us don’t want to be reminded all of the time?

Can you maybe understand that some of us just want to go to the store and do our business without it being a referendum on our service every goddamned time?

Or does that even matter? Is your need to feel validated more important?

Who is this really about?


I know plenty of vets who wear their service on their sleeve.

As I said, I don’t speak for them. Maybe they do expect to be thanked. Maybe they even demand it as their rightful due. You can hardly blame them, that’s the national message, isn’t it. You’re owed a thank you, Veteran. Owed it. Certainly a significant portion of this country increasingly sees it that way.

Me? I see America as more than some warrior class – even though I am a member of that class. Or was.

And I have to wonder why we don’t respect other citizens half so much?

What we did, we veterans, what we do, out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, is often rough, there’s no doubt about that. But, is it any more important to the fabric of society than, oh, say, being a garbage collector? I mean, let your garbageman not show up for a few days in a hot Southern summer and see if your appreciation for the profession doesn’t increase. Why is the soldier more important than the teacher who trains the next generation? Than the farmer who feeds the nation? Than the doctor and the nurses who treat the sick? Than the average faceless nobody who drops a dollar into the cup of a homeless veteran on the streets of America and thus provides a moment of joy and compassion?

Why do we revere the warrior and scorn the peacemaker?

Decades ago, a different war, a different nation, and perhaps America didn’t so much revere the warrior.

I understand if you served in that war and came home to that country how you might still resent it. I would.

I don’t presume to speak for you, or to your experience.

And I never asked anything of you except for the same courtesy in return.


I don’t mind being recognized as a veteran.

Do you mind being recognized for who you are?

Are you expected to change your appearance so as not to be the object of unwanted attention?

Maybe you are.

Women know what I’m talking about. Ironic then that every comment I got about my haircut came from a woman. If you don’t like the attention of your military appearance, hide it, grow your hair out, don’t wear certain clothes, don’t carry yourself in a certain manner. Pretend to be somebody else.

Otherwise, it’s your fault.

As I said, ironic.

Maybe I’d be prettier if I smiled more.

Again, this wasn't about being thanked. Or not thanked.

It wasn't even about having part of your life constantly pulled out and held up for examination by random people.

Or that society deems you should be grateful for that attention and is resentful when you aren’t.

No, it was about that last bit, that part about the military in America not being appreciated.

The military isn’t appreciated enough in this country. That narrative, pushed by the nationalists, by military fetishists, by a certain strident political ideology bent on creating a hallowed warrior class – and then perhaps using it to crush their hated neighbors.

We are coming to a point where respect for the military will be mandatory.

When we declare taking a knee as unpatriotic, how long before we're required to line up and salute those tanks rumbling down the streets of our capital and the tromp of marching boots, those military parades as our president demands?

How long before gratitude turns to resentment for those veterans who don’t toe the party line?

How long before that forced gratitude becomes a weapon?


She was ashamed of my service.

I’m a decorated veteran. I served my country honorably for more than 20 years, in peace and in war.

But she’s ashamed of me. Ashamed that I was ever in the military.

Because I’m don’t want to discuss my service with some random cashier. Because I don’t want to be reminded of what I did every minute of every day, of the friends and comrades I lost, of things I saw and wish I hadn’t. Because I just want to be a regular citizen, just a guy who can walk into a hardware store and buy some screws like any average joe. She’s ashamed of me.

But is she even an American?

I included Catheri22165164 for a reason.

Because she’s very likely a Russian bot. A troll. Attempting to weaponize my comments and turn America’s obsession with thanking veterans into another way to divide and stir hate.

The next one is a real person, someone who followed me and no longer does because I disappointed her.



She’s disappointed.

Disappointed in me.

Disappointed that I'm not doing it right, being a veteran.

Disappointed that I'm not the symbol I'm supposed to be.

Disappointed that I'm not what some random person needs me to be every single minute of every day.

Disappointed that I’d be so selfish as to want to walk into a hardware store, minding my own business, without having to be a fucking hero.


Put my ego away.

Because it’s me.

Because maybe some hippies 50 years ago did or didn’t do something, now I’m – me – I’m somehow now responsible to … be the object of respect? What? I don’t know who I’m supposed to be in this scenario. Am I the flower child or the baby killer? Help me out here.

As to making it real, why does every cashier get to define my reality?



The commenter is making a lot of assumptions there, but let’s say she’s right.

Let’s say the cashier lost some respect for me.

So?

I don’t know the cashier.

I wasn’t looking to impress the cashier with tales of military glory – yes, I know, who doesn’t love to hear a veteran in the checkout line tell war stories all day, bragging up their exploits, impressing the cashier. And the cashier would be impressed, oh he would. Still.

I didn’t go into the store looking for respect. I don’t need gratitude and validation from random people to feel good about myself.

I just wanted some parts for my sprinkler system. That’s all. What does it say about this country when a broken water pipe in my front yard, when every goddamned trip to the store, becomes a mandatory political statement about my military service?

I could go on. There were hundreds of responses. But I’m going to finish up with this last one.

This is the one that finally got to me.

This is the one that perfectly encapsulates the problem America has with its veterans.

This one, right here.



It’s funny, you see?

Big joke. Laughing out loud. Hilarious.

I shared something which bothers me, something I’m uncomfortable with, something that matters to me as a veteran.

But that’s not important to her. Sounds like you need a Snickers.


She didn’t know what the subject was, hadn’t bothered to see if it was a personal tragedy or some horrible disaster. You see somebody else in pain, irritated, uncomfortable, that shit is funny, man. You hangry. Hilarious.

And I wonder if her husband is getting out of line because he’s hungry or because he’s just sick of standing next to a self-centered asshole.



She hadn’t bothered to read any of the thread.

Thirty-seven tweets? That’s like … a whole paragraph. Laughing my ass off at the idea of such an effort. That’s four laugh-crying emojis funny, man!

I mean, why would you even bother to read the whole thing and actually get some idea of the context before offering up advice? Eat something, Buddy, you’ll feel better! That’s right.


That’s right.


You’re standing there, right?

And the cashier is thanking you for your service. Right?

Your service.

Sure. Your service and what about it?

You joined up. You were proud of swearing the oath, wearing that uniform, serving your country. It mattered to you, a lot.

See, you’d always been a small kid, skinny, buck-toothed. Lousy at sports. A reader. A dork. Bullied. Picked on. Pushed around. Loser. Now, suddenly, you were an adult. Is this who you were going to be for your whole life? Get some shitty job. Never leave your hometown. Spend the rest of your life living next to the jerks who think you’re a loser? Live your life vicariously through stories about heroes and adventurers, those who had the courage to do what you could not?

You wanted to prove something. Not to the bullies, not to those who thought you were a loser, but to yourself.

Your dad, man, you admired that guy. He was a veteran, a Navy man in the Korean War, and goddamn was he proud of you for signing up. And your uncles, Navy men both. One a medic on the beach at Normandy, yes, that Normandy, during that war, on that day, and another, a Seabee, on Midway Island, yes, that Midway, during that war, during that battle.  A cousin, another Navy man, in Vietnam. That was just the Navy, there were Marines and Air Force and Army in your family too. That’s the legacy you followed out of your small Midwestern town. And after that, nobody called you a loser or tried to push you around and the military became your home. And you believed. You did. You knew it wasn’t all heroism and righteousness, you knew your country wasn’t always that shining city on the hill, but you thought you were one of the good guys. You did. You worked your ass off for it. A decade, two. You set the example, led from the front, and one day you were an officer. Married. Kid. College degree. And you were starting to think about what you might do next when your country was attacked. And thousands of the people you swore to defend died. Horribly. And suddenly America was at war and it was your job, yours, to lead others into battle and you realized on that day how those men looked at you the way you’d once looked up to the heroes in those stories you so loved as a kid. It was your job to take the fight to the enemy and make him pay for what he’d done. You knew you were one of the good guys. You did. You knew it when you looked down and saw your son looking back up at you as if you were ten feet tall, tears in his eyes as you left for war. A final hug for your wife, who was terrified that you wouldn’t come home, but was proud that you were going anyway.

And you did.

You went.

You did the thing.

You went to war, as your family had done for generations.

You weren’t even scared, because you were one of the good guys and this is what you were supposed to do. Your whole life had come down to this moment.

Oh, you had doubts, because information was your specialty and the things you saw didn’t line up with what your government was telling the world. But war is complicated. You didn’t know everything, you were just a cog in the machine. You had to believe those in charge, those elected to run the country, knew what they were doing. That they knew the real truth and one day, if you lived, you would too.

That was your job – to believe.

To lead by example. To get the mission done. To get your people home alive.

And that’s what you did. And you were proud of it and why the hell shouldn’t you be? Not many could have done what you did or as well. You’d done things they write books about. You’d done things they make movies about. You were that guy.

But…

One night, a few days into the war, you stood on the deck of a Navy cruiser and you watched as other ships of the fleet launched salvo after salvo of missiles. It’s been a long time since that night, but you can still hear the roar of boosters flinging those terrible weapons into the sky, still smell the acrid sting of the propellent, still see the rocket’s red glare, still hear the womp! as each booster burned out and the missile’s sustainer engine lit off and that weird whistling sound it made as it disappeared into the night, bound for some target in enemy territory hundreds of miles away. Those under its fall were already dead – they just didn’t know it yet.

But…

You remember what you felt that night, watching the death of tens of thousands rise into the sky.

Fierce satisfaction.

Revenge.

Pride.

Joy.

Those who had killed so many Americans, those sons of bitches were going to die and you were happy see them burn. Because that was your job.


Only it wasn’t you, was it?


No. It wasn’t you.

It was me.

It was me standing on that deck. Feeling those things. Doing what had to be done. And there was more, a lot more, but I’ve told you all I’m going to and the rest is none of your business. It’s my job to live with it.

We went because we thought we were doing right.

Because those who led us, they told us we were doing right.

Just as I told the men I led that we were doing right.

But…

Yes. But.

That’s the rub. Isn’t it? That but.

We weren’t the good guys after all.

We weren’t doing right.

It was all a lie.

Those missiles, when they fell, they killed thousands of people who had never done America any harm. When it was done, when the war was finally over for us, more than a decade had passed. I don’t how many died. No one does. Hundreds of thousands. More.

I was part of that.

And I remember exactly how I felt back then in that moment.

A few weeks back, Ari Fleischer, who’d once been a member of the Administration which sent us into war on a lie showed up on Twitter.

Fleischer began with this: The Iraq war began sixteen years ago tomorrow. There is a myth about the war that I have been meaning to set straight for years. After no WMDs were found, the left claimed “Bush lied. People died.” This accusation itself is a lie. It’s time to put it to rest.

He went on, making excuses, blaming Americans, blaming liberals, blaming everyone but those actually responsible. Lying. Because lying is what he does. He lied for a president and he got paid for it. And that president, those dirty rotten sons of bitches, they lied to America.

They lied to the United Nations.

They lied to the world.

They lied to you and they lied to me.

And most of all, they lied to themselves. They lied knowing they were lying, with deliberation and malice aforethought.

It’s sixteen years later, and they’re still lying about it. And I remember exactly how I felt that night when we killed tens of thousands of innocent people.

I believed them.

Hundreds of other military men and woman believed them.

And yes, it’s easy for you to sit here now and call us fools – and we were certainly that – but you weren’t there. You weren’t out there, on the pointy end of the stick when the towers fell. And you don’t have to live with being a fool now and I guess that makes you better than me.

That’s what I live with.

I always did right, as best I was able, even though they made me part of their lies. I made the choices I made so that I could look my dad, my son, in the eye. I served honorably. I was decorated. I got my men home alive. I did it.

And for what?

For a lie.


Don’t be grouchy.

Kidding! Lighten up.

It’s corporate policy for businesses to keep reminding you of the things you have to live with – as if you don’t wake up at 3AM thinking about them already. It’s nothing. A feelgood moment. But you, me, I end up thinking about it all day. I remember that night, feeling joy knowing those people were about to die.

And that’s just too bad for me. Eat a Snickers and get over it.

Laughing out loud and can’t even be bothered to read the context. Some of us, we spent years out there fighting America’s wars. We spent more months than I can tally away from our families, not knowing if we were going to make it home, doing our jobs on the knife edge. But this woman, this American citizen, she can’t even be bothered to spend a single minute reading a single paragraph. Because it doesn’t matter. You’re a veteran. America doesn’t need context, doesn’t need to know you or your history. No. You’re not a person, you’re a symbol. You’re a joke, a punchline. It’s funny. You’re hangry! You need to eat something. That’ll fix it.

If ever there was a metaphor for how America regards its veterans, it’s this horrible fucking woman right here.

Hilarious.

Not so goddamned funny when it’s the other way though.

You wonder why so many veterans have trouble coming home?

You wonder why veterans drink, do drugs, fall apart?

You wonder why veterans kill themselves?

Do you?

Maybe it’s because you’re not listening.


Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.
-- Henri Frederic Amiel


_________________________

Epilog:

This discussion, if that’s what this is, has been raging on my Twitter timeline for four days now.

Yesterday, I’d had enough.

I didn’t want to think about it any more.

I didn’t want to be reminded of certain things any more.

I didn’t want to be part of this national narrative, if only for a while.

So I took the day off and went where there is no internet, no cellphones, and few people.

And I found myself standing on a deserted sandbar in the middle of the Blackwater River, in a remote part of the Blackwater State Forest. Holding a camera – which is what I do when I’m not writing. Photography. I’m good at it. And I enjoy it, the mechanical perfection of it, the skill, the art of it. The mind clearing concentration it takes.

The day was hot. The water was icy cold. The sky was gray. The alligators were lethargic and unlikely to be any trouble.

And it was just what I needed.

Then an older couple in a canoe appeared from around a bend upstream.

I waved as they came abreast of my sandbar.

The woman asked, "Navy?"

See, I expected to spend the day doing wildlife photography, wading in the river and through the cedar swamps and not interacting with strangers. So I grabbed the first shirt out of the drawer where my wife puts "work clothes," a stained, ratty old navy PT shirt.

"Retired," I answered, reflexively.

"THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!" she shouted, as they cruised past and disappeared down the river.

201 comments:

  1. I appreciated everything you said. Then the coda kicked in and caused a very rueful smile to appear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite possibly the best column I have ever read, Jim. So many in our country go unthanked for what they give. We're all in this together. All of us.

      Delete
    2. You're absolutely sure you read the piece? huh

      Delete
    3. Maybe Jean Marie is the woman from Twitter who told him to eat a snickers...

      Delete
    4. Or maybe she's referring to the part asking whether we thank our teachers, our garbagemen, our bus drivers, our nurses, our...?

      Delete
    5. I am a frequent reader never a poster. This is the best article I have read. In our city we have so many homeless vets who these same people would not stop for one minute and assist! In fact, they also don't contribute to any organization to help prevent suicide and are sanctimonious when you say all the ginned up faux rage about Kap kneeling is an affront to all vets! They are faux Americans who wear the flag, and wave it at every opportunity they get but do not understand the meaning behind it. I worked over 30 years in law enforcement and while I worked with some outstanding men and women, I have also worked with some racists, egomaniac, authoritarians assholes also. I feel for every family who loses a love one whether defending our nation or defending our streets, but I also know that so many are not held accountable, just as in any profession. I winced when the Obama administration was cozy with Bush. I worry the current leader in the White House will send my family (currently serving) into another unjust conflict for oil or the 1% who do nothing to help the ills in our society but hide their riches those same people died for in some off shore bank account. I feel your pain, and instead of thanking you for your service, I for one thank you for your honesty. Peace be with you.

      Delete
    6. I wasn't going to comment because I didn't know what to say but you said it perfectly.

      Delete
  2. it's hard to tell the difference between the ones who have innocent gratitude and those who are disingenuously using the line to fondle themselves. It pisses me off too, to be roped into helping someone jack themselves off without even a kiss.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My dad served. My husband served. And yet, their military service was just one part of who they were/are. I do appreciate what you said. I'm just sorry you have to put up with assholes. And the epilog was perfect!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I get it. Not because I'm a veteran, but because at a disabled person, I'm often held up as some paragon of virtue when I go through the self-check and bag my own groceries. And other people comment on how I should or should not respond when I have to deal with some patronizing pity on a public place when I'm just trying to do something everybody has to do. (I went in to pay my water bill one day, and the clerk reached through the window, grabbed my hands, and commenced to praying loudly to her Holy Spirit on my behalf. I said, "Jesus, it's just an oxygen tank! My brain works fine! " but she didn't get the humor, not did the next person in line....)

    The next person who decides you're "hangry" should have a Snickers suppository! I'll help administer it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, geez, I'm sorry. The dragonfly was a *great* shot, though

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for our nation being full of of empty headed, platitude spewing people. I wish I could say they mean well, but they don't. At least you didn't have to hear about their "thoughts and prayers" as well.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I dreaded that last bit about the older couple. Saw it coming and dreaded it after the earlier part. You don't need it from me, but I get it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have no words; yours were enough. Excellent column.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jim, thank you. Thank you for being the writer that you are, the photographer that you are, the woodworker, the husband, the father that you are. Thank you for being the man that you are.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ouch. I can't say I've been there, but I do know how angry people get when you refuse to play the role they've assigned you, to be their showpiece whatever-the-hell you're cast as. I hope the rest of the photography session went well and you got a chance to decompress.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Stellar, honest writing from an incredible writer.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for speaking your truth.It is so rare these days and I really miss it. Instead of thanking,I think we should say I'm sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Jim, this hits with the explosive power of a mortar shell, which is what I expect you wanted.

    I think it may be your best essay yet… and that’s saying a lot.

    One tiny correction, if I may: in the sentence “I always did right, as best I was able, even thought ….” I think you probably mean “though” not “thought.”

    Best regards.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I signed up in the late 80s and went Air Force - it wasn't for any great, high ideals, I had personal reasons just like anyone else who makes that choice. It was good for me, and it made me a better person, but I wasn't suited for military service in the larger scheme of things, so I did my one hitch and collected my honorable discharge and went on to find a future that would be a better fit.

    If nothing else, the Air Force taught me things about myself that have enabled me to find a better path, and I've always been grateful for that. At the same time, though, I've had some regret - that I gave up, that I didn't see it through. I've read stories, in the years since, about some pretty goddamned serious trouble my old squadron's gotten into, and I have enough of an ego to think I'd have done better, and perhaps I could have led others to do better as well.

    Be that as it may. My time in service ended cleanly, and I never had to live through the twist of seeing what you've seen, or walking down the road of my own good intentions into the hell of someone else's dishonest agenda.

    So I will thank you. Not for your service, you didn't do it for ME. I'll thank you, though, for your choice to share your reflections. You're not doing that for me either, but I benefit nonetheless. I've written some things as a way to clarify and process my own experiences. It's not easy, it can be painful, and generally the only good reason to do it is that it's better than not doing it.

    So thanks. I appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. People are exhausting. Sorry you’ve had to deal with this. I hope the upcoming week is better.

    ReplyDelete
  16. There is so much on my mind after reading this but as of yet it's not in any kind of coherent order. What I get from the people who feel everyone should be grateful to the military is that they really think the military should be grateful for the gratitude they receive. When you don't respond in a manner they deem appropriate it's because you just won't try to see it from their point of view. In their eyes, you are the one who lacks gratitude. It seems like no matter what you do or where you go afterwards they will always feel they own a piece of you. Strange how similar it is to how celebrities are treated.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Chief ... no, that's wrong, in this moment. Jim. Not chief, right now.

    I'm sorry. I'm sorry you were sent abroad to do things which you, as an ethical human, question, and sent on the basis of a lie. I'm sorry that you, and so many other veterans who have served as honorably as they knew how, are fetishized into cardboard cutouts bedecked in jingoism, instead of given the sort of thanks that really matters -- help reintegrating into civilian life, reliable medical and psychological support, and so forth. TANGIBLE thanks; the kind that don't come wrapped in the flag.

    And while I certainly ***AM*** grateful for your service and that of the other men and women who have done hard things on behalf of the nation, I'm far, more grateful -- SO VERY much more grateful -- for who you are. Your insight. Your honesty. Your willingness to be transparent about your experiences.

    Thanks for being you, Jim. And for sharing your views with all of us, the members of your house of flying monkeys!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift of photography with the world. It is truly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  19. When I read "Lies My Teacher Told Me" I discovered they lied (mostly by omission) to me my whole life in my American History classes. And those lies are still part of a political narrative today. I got angry and bitter and very suspicious of conservativism.

    That is the lens I have to internalize and process your story. I don't know how what you wrote will change me, but I won't be able to forget how the lies, which killed so many innocents, also affected you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is one of my favorite books. It's led me to make sure I'm honest with my children about what they're learning, and also teaching them why they're taught the way they are. I hope I'm raising them to be critical thinking human beings. I guess I'll see, as time goes on.

      Jim, this is a poignant piece. A lot to think on. Thank you for making me think. And I LOVE your photography. Your photographs have often left me breathless.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the referral to "Lies My Teacher Taught Me". Found it in a downloadable edition from my local public library and am a hundred pages in. Quite sobering, well researched/documented, and a guide to the future.

      Delete
  20. This is a very good read. Have you ever heard the song Limelight by Rush, and the story behind the lyrics and the man who wrote them? I see a lot of parallels here.

    ReplyDelete
  21. My wife appreciated the support when she was going through chemo. I'm sure she wants people to donate for a cure, raise awareness, blah blah blah. But at some point she was tired of every-fucking-thing gifted her, every sweatshirt, bedsheet, keychain, inspirational book, having that Goddamn pink ribbon. Nevermind October when she can buy processed, high sodium, artificial packaged foods in pink.

    Maybe it's the same as this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am with your wife. I'm going through chemo and I don't like the pink ribbon. Mostly because it's pink. I hate the color, and because it's on so many things for women sometimes it's hard to find something feminine without pink!

      Delete
  22. "Prussia is an army with a country attached.". Quote circa mid 18th century.

    The US scares me. You seem to measure yourself more and more by one metric: your military.

    No one must question US military power, only traitors do that. Only weak and weedy Europeans who hide behind the coat tails of the mighty Uncle Sam do that.

    And so a malaise sets in. The rich get richer, the poor struggle more. And a man enters the Whitehouse who wraps himself in the flag. Look, he loves the flag, he loves the military, he must love you. Keep the faith. The military is all that matters. Teachers don't fight for freedom, they just teach wishy washy liberalism.

    Might makes right. If anybody opposes you, stands up to you, you can just give them a bloody nose.

    On the 5th of June 1944 Eisenhower looked round the table at his advisors, deputies, meteorologists. He was the only one who could make the decision. 10s of thousands of young men's lives depended on his next sentence.

    "OK,we'll go."

    In his top pocket a speech, never used. One that would explain to thousands of parents, children and widows why those young men were not coming home due to his failure.

    16 and a half years later he did give a speech, as he said farewell for the last time as a servant of those same people. He warned of the military-industrial complex.

    Maybe, America, you could thank him for his service, by acting on that warning

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have a brother who is retired Navy. 24 years. He doesn't hang out with other military retirees because they live in the past, retelling the stories of their experiences. D wants to live in the present, as I assume that's what you want too.

    I have a nephew who was Army. He had issues before he enlisted. He became a mechanic and served in Afghanistan. Now he's struggling with more mental issues.

    I hate what the politicians have done to the generations after WW2. Not everyone feels you are wrong in what you feel. Good people were destroyed.

    ReplyDelete
  24. You do, though. You do speak for an awful lot of veterans. Not all, certainly. But very many of us.

    And yes, for that service, for speaking out against this ridiculous cult of vapid warrior-worship, I do genuinely thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "Why do we revere the warrior and scorn the peacemaker?" Tes! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I served from 1976 to 1980. I spent my four years getting high on an airfield in sunny Southern California. I laugh when someone thanks me for my service, usually followed by "Vietnam?". When they ask why I'm laughing and I tell them they're often disappointed. I'm not a "vet" in their eyes. I didn't face any danger, well, other than an Article 13. There's a mythic standard for who is considered a "Vet" in this country. For years I felt like I wasn't a "vet", felt less than my Vietnam brothers, who constantly told me I didn't miss anything and should be glad I wasn't in during those years.
    I agree absolutely that they aren't thanking you or me. They have no idea what we did, but in their minds we charged San Juan Hill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not a "vet" either. I served '86-'90, as a programmer/analyst at USAF HQ SAC/XOXPC. (I often note that I joined the Air Force, the service that flies places, and was immediately assigned to a position four stories underground - that they then had the temerity to call the "Air Room".) Sure, we planned out WW3 to the last detail, and simulated it three times a year (good ol' Global Goatrope- er, Global Shield), and sure, it left me for the next two decades waking up from nightmares that something I'd done in my software led to an all-out nuclear exchange, but I wasn't a "real" vet, because nobody actually shot at me.

      You're right, they're not thanking Jim, because they're not *seeing* Jim. They're thanking this weird mythological image they have in their heads of what a "warrior" is. (It's one of the several reasons why my roommate doesn't like to go out in public - he gets enough PTSD flashes when he goes past an abandoned car on the road or a randomly-blowing plastic bag and starts looking for the IED and the ambush, the last thing he needs is some random civilian who wouldn't even know which side the ribbon bar goes on reminding him of his service.)

      Delete
    2. Jon S. - my husband served at USAF HQ SAC from '80 - '84 as a computer op on WWMCCS. He's not a "real" vet either.

      Delete
  27. I knew three WWII era vets. One was a neighbor who served in Sicily, Italy and southern France. He didn't talk about it much. Borrowed our copy of Ernie Pyle's Brave Men and brought it back a few days later with a terse "I can't read this." Only story he ever told was how a German bullet cut his rifle strap.

    One was my uncle. Served on three of those escort carriers. The CVE's. Combustible, vulnerable and expendable as the men on them called them. Near as I can put it together he was part of the task force that got hammered off Samar Island. His only real comment was that he got knocked off one carrier and woke up on another. I've been doing some reading. It was probably more than that. But that was all he wanted to share.

    The third was my dad's best friend. He got a Christmas card in 1944. Postmarked Belgium. He didn't talk about it much either. They did what they were asked to do. They were lucky. They survived. They came home, didn't lose any body parts, raised families. One was a cop, one was and engineer, one drove a semi and raised bees on the side. They didn't say much. Partly I believe because it was the past and maybe deep down they figured that we wouldn't really understand what they went through. And they were probably right.

    I've read some of your blog entries. IMHO you are a darn good writer. You take great pictured, do woodworking that I envy, could keep a jeep in repair and it sounds like fix things like irrigation systems so that they are better than before. Too bad all the cashier could see was the haircut, the debit card, and not what you were buying. "What are you trying to fix" would have been a good place to start. Loved the dragonfly shot by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  28. It's For This Exact Reason I Love Reading Your Work Jim. You Personify Exemplary Writing, Clear, Concise, No Bullshit. So If I May, I'd Like To Thank You, Not For Your Military Service, But For Continuing To Report The Truth, As You See It, Regardless Of The Countless Idiot Americans You Seem To Encounter Daily. Thank You, For Writing Something That Was An Interesting Read. That Made My Brain Actually Disengage Autopilot (Usually Engaged When Scrolling FB) And Caused Me To Examine My Own Experiences In This Matter. For These Things, You Have My Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Jim, I want to thank you for this, and all your writing. You say things with wit, eloquence, and fire that speak to the complex, maddening days we live in. I try not to be too down on the way we communicate through social media now, but work like yours is rare. We as a nation are in dire need of voices like yours. Thank you for the service you gave and the service you still do now. Don't let the bastards grind you down.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I have never understood the fetish Americans have for the military and I have never been so proud of our Canadian government as I was when our Prime Minister refused to get dragged in to that immoral war. I can still recall my absolute outrage when the US government tried to block Canadian TV signals at the border because our national TV service showed actual videos from Vietnam -- putting the lie to much of the propaganda being fed to your people. I have no quarrel with your service, but I sure have a problem with a mentality that says that service makes you some kind of national hero. (And if your country truly thought you were heroes they would pay you at a rate that did not require merchants to give you a discount on everything you might buy.) SMH

    ReplyDelete
  31. Jim, Thank you for your honesty. You are as always able to articulate complicated issues far more clearly and concisely than I ever can. It's the soldiers job to go where he is told and do what he is told, trusting in the politicians who send him. It is the politicians job to determine when and where the soldier will go. It is the citizens responsibility to elect politicians who will not abuse that power.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Former USCG and Army National Guard, here. Also, worked law enforcement and a number of other government services. Retired now with disability.

    They don't know what its like to serve, the majority of Americans who never signed that piece of paper. Never held up their right hand and swore to die for their country. They can't imagine what it is like.

    And those of us who did, and served honorably, well... we all had different experiences. No vet can really speak for another, as you said.

    There is a saying though, and it's hard to explain to someone who never put on a uniform, but I like to think its truth is clear to most of us who did.

    "There are no unwounded soldiers."

    You can't always see the wounds. Sometimes they're buried deep in the soul. Sometimes they're just a memory. And sometimes they stare back at us from the mirror every morning. But I believe we all have them. We live with them. We carry them for the rest of our lives.

    Hang in there, chief. We need your wisdom now more than ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "They don't know what its like to serve, the majority of Americans who never signed that piece of paper. Never held up their right hand and swore to die for their country. They can't imagine what it is like."
      This, a hundred percent. *I* get thanked for my service even though I'm a civilian married to a retired Army LTC. I always say don't thank me. I wasn't the one to take an oath and sign on the dotted line. I was just home support so he could concentrate on the mission.

      Funny thing about those darned Liberals and the military, some of them are actually IN the military. Turns out, serving your country isn't a political thing but a patriotic/personal/other reasons reason. Wowsers, right?

      Delete
  33. I do thank you for your service and also appreciate people of my generation who served in Nam, another war that was based on a lie. I thank vets because you stood up and did what many of us were unwilling to do. Where would we be without you? Not wanting to irritate you by going on and on, but it was heartbreaking to see friends return from Nam and know that most of them would never be the people they were before.

    ReplyDelete
  34. its unbelievably painful to have to justify your decisions to others. I am sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  35. A couple of comments: I am a Navy vet who served nearly a full hitch during the Cold War. Early out to start college, VA helped pay for BSC and MA degrees, loan for first house. I did well on the deal and really don't need any thanks from anyone for what I did. Above all, I do not want my nearly four years of military service to determine the rest of my life. I'm retired from career two and work as a substitute teacher. I had a dewy-eyed fifth grader, who upon finding out that I am a Navy vet, gave me the "thankyouferyerservice" line. I really didn't know how to react, not really sure if little Billy had the slightest idea of why he was thanking me. All vets are different: my high school NJROTC teacher, a WWII Pacific vet, claims the story that on leave after everyone marveled at his Navy dress blues, said "Pass the fuckin' mashed potatoes," at the Christmas dinner table. A neighbor claims to be one of those vets upon whom the hippies spat when he passed through California on the way home from Vietnam. I have seen Persian Gulf veterans with four rows of military awards on their chests who really did nothing other than be there. They have their versions of the veteran's tale. Mine is very different.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Alison French-TuboMay 4, 2019 at 10:31 PM

    America, the Greek tragedy. As a whole we forget that whatever-we-are-exalting has a flip side. Thanks for showing us the other side of the rote "thank you for your service."

    ReplyDelete
  37. *sigh* I'm so sorry that you have to go through this so often. I appreciate what our military does, and the rank and file certainly deserve better. I tried to join, was all set to go to West Point even, but got 4F'd when my left kneecap dislocated at MEPS. Stupid duck walk... I eventually became a paramedic, then a nurse. I try to keep the paramedic history quiet, though. I get so sick of being asked, "Oh, wow! You were a Paramedic? What's the worst thing you've ever seen?" Yeah, thanks for bringing back memories of things I've tried very hard to forget. It sucks. I just wish people were more considerate of each other, and willing to LISTEN to hear, not listen to respond. I hope that you have a better day, and treat us to some more of your wonderful photography. You do have quite a talent there.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thank you for sharing this. Empathy.

    ReplyDelete
  39. You are a person. Autonomous, complicated, and unique, and more than your work and history. You did your job, did it well, and it only defines your past, not your now. I appreciate the now that is educated by the past, not that dwells on it.

    Thank you for sharing your “now.” It is enough, because you, today, are enough.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Oh, if I told you why I hate that fucking song as much as I do, we'd be here all night. I don't drink the hard stuff but I'd pour you one right now and clink that glass.

    Thank you for your WRITING.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Aware of the irony here, but thank you for your writing. Your voice is a vital one, and you use it to great effect. This document has considerable power to change people's understanding of the vectors through which a person passes in service and beyond, and how action is inextricably entwined with context.

    ReplyDelete
  42. All I can offer is a big inhalation and a long, slow breath back out. This was a rough one to read, and a necessary one. I feel some of the same things you eloquently described, but have not wanted to wade in to explain to others. USN, 1998-2006

    ReplyDelete
  43. Not listening is what we do best. You don't need my condolences or my limited understanding but you have both. Great piece, by the way. I think this might be one of your best.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Word. Heard, but not heeded. More is the pity.

    ReplyDelete
  45. As the mother of a combat veteran, and the daughter and daughter-in-law of veterans (WWII and Korea) boy, do I hear this. There is nothing simple about serving, even serving in a "righteous" war. Thank you for using your skill and talent as a writer to shed light.

    ReplyDelete
  46. As spot on a piece of writing as you've ever done Jim. I've always wondered what people think they're thanking me for.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Everybody NEEDS to read this. Sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Thanks for ……. sharing your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  49. No, I didn't serve. I knew it was not something for me. But I do understand doing something for what I thought was the right thing to do and later learning it was a lie. and you can't go back and change it. And it's not comfortable. There were lives that were lost in your case. I don't want to imagine the weight of that. May you find peace at some point.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Jim, my heart aches for you. I've never been in your situation, I have my own bag of shite...thank you for telling us story. As woman, you are right, that's what we do, we dress differently, we smile when we fucking don't feel like it so I know what your are feeling to a degree. I never joined the service, I'm 75 they wouldn't let us. I was born in Hanford Wa. the government tested radioactive iodine on us without our knowledge or consent and a whole lot of us died from that exposure. When I relayed that story of my birth place and the harm it caused in a blog a lady who lives there now, never met her, she decided I had wronged her somehow and called me a liar and went on and on like some of them do to you. There's no way to deal with those people, they don't get it. They live in this little fantasy world where God and the military/government can do no wrong. You can't talk to them, they don't understand because it wasn't their reality and they don't want to understand, they just don't want their little world interrupted with your truth. I love you work, your honesty and thank you for that.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Thank you for your service, Jim - the service you render with your writing, with your photos, with your crafts.

    ReplyDelete
  52. When working customer service and encountering military, I tend towards the default of, "I'm glad you made it back, if you deploy again, I hope you make it home safe again."

    I'm glad you made it back. Relative markers for definitions of "safely," as war experience screws up everyone differently. I wish American culture was more compassionate by default, had less tendency toward projection and forced martyrdom. It gets forced onto so many groups and most of us just want to live our lives, do what needs done, and have token connection with roll-for-random encounter people.

    I was raised by a man who memorized Emily Post etiquette and I've always appreciated the distinction of levels of familiarity that old school manners books insisted on. It tended to, if not keep people in line, at least provide a common language for disengagement if/when someone overstepped. You certainly gave the cashier every opportunity to disengage, broad hints that anyone with a smidge of experience would have seen. If anyone failed their empathy and manners checks in that encounter, it was the cashier, not you.

    ReplyDelete
  53. I'm a Navy brat myself, though I never served. (Took a good long look in the mirror and realized I would suck at being a service member.) But I agree with you about the attitude toward the military these days. I've seen too many sailors and soldiers up close to see the symbol. This image people build up in their heads is toxic, because it keeps them from seeing you, an actual human being, when you're right in front of them.

    I'm sorry there's so many dumbasses out there who can't take a hint. I'm sorry military service has been glamourized and fetishized so much that you can't escape it even when you want to, when you're just going to the store or walking by the river. And I'm very sorry that our idiot countrymen just keep electing people who talk about being pro-military while they figure out new ways to put soldiers and sailors in harm's way to score political points and line their own pockets instead of for defending our country and helping our allies.

    I'd say "thank you for your service" but... yeah. Thank you instead for being a decent human being. We need more people like you.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Jim, I can't pretend to understand how you feel. I've never been in the military, never dealt with the life and death of it on a personal level. My family doesn't have a history of military service although I have family members who have served. My nephew was in the Air Force during Desert Storm and my daughter's older half brother did 4 tours; three in Afghanistan a one in Iraq, also with the Air Force. They both came home scarred, mentally & physically. My nephew still spends far too much time fighting with the VA for the help he needs and my step-son didn't have the energy or the will to fight after he came home. He was gravely wounded during 2 of his tours and still they sent him back for more. When he finally came home all fucked up, the Air Force dishonorably discharged him rather than try to help him get his life together. Two months later he drove his car off a curve at 100 mph hour and put an end to it all He was 30 years old. So, what I see is a country full of people who want to feel better about themselves by thanking a veteran but who refuse, for the most part, to make their government do their duty to returning vets. I never thank a service member unless they act like they expect it, because, like you said, some do. For my part, I'm deeply sorry, as an American, for putting all of you in the positions that we did and for being so gullible as to believe it was necessary at the time. I'm sorry for the constant pain my nephew lives with, for the deep, gut-wrenching grief my daughter has lived with for the past 8 years and for the memories that you don't want to remember. I know that I'm pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things but all I can do is promise to do better in the future, to demand better for our vets and to pay closer attention to the crazy bastards who constantly want to send our people to war.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Your service didn't end when you retired. You continue to show us what it means to serve your country. So I won't thank you for what you did, grateful though I may be. But I will thank you for what you continue to do. Shine a light on the dark places in our country and in our government, and show us how we can be better. Please don't stop. I know it can be both frustrating and discouraging. But we need you.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Well, this generated an incredible amount of thinking for me and I am just going to put this out there without worrying about the cleanliness of wording or flow but I am compelled to do so by your words.

    After 25 years in the fire service and countless experiences most aren't ever aware of I often wondered and still do about the differences in trauma the military personnel are exposed to under the guise of whatever is being told to them and the types of PTSD generating trauma firefighters have.

    Not that it matters to anyone, it is all personal.

    The traumas are, clearly, different although violence is part of it all.

    I often thought about when I was on the job how people came up and thanked us all the time and I tried to be gracious about it while thinking inside that I was no different than the garbage man, the street sweeper, a plumber, any number of the wildly varying professionals that make a world a world.... it was, in the end, just a job I was good at and that job was largely in assisting people to their deaths in one form or another with the occassional rescue or life saved.

    Really, it was just a job that my childhood made me a perfect candidate for.
    It certainly didn't give me any kind of feelings of being elevated or better than anyone else nor do I see most people that served the public feel any differently than I did... and, as you stated, some do.... I don't understand that need and I don't really care for those that do that.... they rub me the wrong way.
    If you do those jobs for the recognition then, in my opinion, you are probably not somebody I would have wanted to work next to.

    I am glad to be removed from it from a professional standpoint and, in the right place and time with the right people, I am entirely comfortable talking about it and in other situations I want nothing to do with it and don't want it brought up.

    I appreciate what you write.... you have honed your craft and capturing people's attention through the written word is an art that takes so much work.

    I enjoy your artwork, it is amazing to create beauty.



    ReplyDelete
  57. I want to thank you, but not for what all the misguided numbskulls have been thanking you for ad nauseam. Oh, I COULD do that, since as a military brat and wife of a former soldier I do have a patriotic streak and an appreciation for what our military personnel do for my own liberty. But I am so disgusted that what I grew up feeling special about, feeling patriotic about, has now become fodder for the drooling, gun humping, far-right crazy shit show, and so it pains me to identify with that word, patriotic, these days. At the same time, it pains me NOT to, because that feels shitty and, well, unpatriotic, and I'm SO PISSED OFF that those mouthbreathers have stolen our word, bastardized what it means to be "A Patriot," to the point I don't want to identify that way. And I believe in some magical thinking kind of way that my retired career Air Force officer daddy would roll in his grave thinking his daughter was somehow being disrespectful of anyone's service for my freedom. So, no, I do NOT want to thank you for your service, although I appreciate ANYONE who has put their life on the line for our country. Rather, I want to thank you for writing this, and all your other essays. For saying so eloquently what so many of us feel but cannot adequately express. For reminding us we're NOT the messed up ones, we're not alone, and we're not crazy. Well, you know what I mean, I hope. I just appreciate that you put your creativity and intelligence and astute opinions out there for the rest of us to grab onto almost like a lifeline. And you do it at your own peril. You do it knowing people will be shitty about it sometimes. I hope you keep doing it. I understand if you reach a point where you no longer wish to. But I hope if enough people thank you for THIS kind of thing, or for your wonderful pens (lucky owner via a friend who gifted it to me!!), or your wit and humor, or your lovely, breathtaking photography, or stories of your dogs and family; if enough of us thank you for being YOU, maybe you'll keep letting us have a glimpse into your thoughts on here, because for some of us, it matters. Thank you, Jim.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "But I am so disgusted that what I grew up feeling special about, feeling patriotic about, has now become fodder for the drooling, gun humping, far-right crazy shit show, and so it pains me to identify with that word, patriotic, these days. At the same time, it pains me NOT to, because that feels shitty and, well, unpatriotic, and I'm SO PISSED OFF that those mouthbreathers have stolen our word, bastardized what it means to be "A Patriot," to the point I don't want to identify that way." Exactly.
      And the same with "Christian."

      Delete
  58. My dad's prostate cancer came screaming back in 2017, so I ended up spending the better part of Fall into Winter with him then went back for a bit in Spring 2018. Spent more contnuous time with him in 6 or so months than he had with me in the previous 53 years. While I was with him, we'd go to town (he lived in a small town in mid-Texas, I grew up in SoCal, now living in NorCal) he'd wear his ball cap with the US Marine insignia on it and folks would thank him for his service. He flew in the Marines, mid-fifties to early 60's, but never saw active duty and had a reasonably successful career. What he did do though, was work for Braniff Airlines for 30+ years taking thousands of people from place to place safely. Something I felt deserved much more appreciation...
    Jim, I did not serve, but I appreciate the fact that you chose to and appear to have given it your all. But what I appreciate more, is your willingness to lay it all out there, on the line as a writer and I would be less inspired with life had I not discovered your writings. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  59. My dad never came all the way home from a war they called "The GOOD War", and the one thing that struck me was the line "A feel good moment" because that's what I think it is. It may be an expiation of guilt for some, but for many it's just that, and as you suggest, about themselves, because none of them however much they blamed the "damned hippies and draft dodgers", do anything but walk around the disturbed and soul seared survivors of that war they hark on constantly, as the epic of disrespect for the military. I know. My cousin was also one of those men. I grew up in the military, and my father served through 3 wars. I cringe when I hear people do this, because I know the nightmares of that man who rode in the Spurry ball turret and watched the bombs fall .. "No one wants to be thanked for that.." and I can still see his hands shaking. This made me angry for him all over again, even angrier at these same people who are outraged that you don't "appreciate" the privilege of their gratitude, that cheer a man who sneered at and threw my uncle, who was marched through the jungle for over a year as a prisoner of war, while his friends all died around him, under the bus because he was captured. The SAME people. It's not about appreciating the military.
    Thank you for writing this. I know it was bitterly painful, but it was beautifully said all the same. Thank you for in the end becoming you, and finding a way to fly out of the ashes.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Your writing is always excellent and I’ve always been in awe of your skill and wisdom. I had read the original Facebook and gained deep understanding of something of which I am ignorant. But this time, I felt the intimacy of one person speaking to just me. Your vulnerability and risk taking in laying yourself bare left me in tears. It would be presumptuous of me to say, “I get it, Jim.” But I think I can honestly say I’m getting closer. And I do thank you. But I thank you for your honesty and your courage to be real.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Jeremy Moore (SLC, UT- Bama born)May 4, 2019 at 11:55 PM

    Jim,

    Thank you for TALKING ABOUT your service.

    I believe we share many things. Service isn't one of them, but that's one in a hundred. I'm a person who wouldn't burn a flag, but believe the ability to burn one is important. I believe kneeling is a personal choice. I don't say the pledge of allegiance, because I don"t like rote, empty symbolism aimed at the wrong thing. I stop and think on Memorial Day, and know it's NOT the same as Veteran's Day. I appreciate the anthem at the Fourth of July, and don't understand why it's the preamble to playing games.
    And I don't thank random people for their service unless they're over 65. My grandfather was Navy, and so was my great uncle. One was a 16lb loader on the Iowa, another was a mine sweeper. Both in the Big War. And neither one EVER mentioned their service. It was a necessary thing they did, then they went on to live the rest of their lives. It was war, and it wasn't glorious. It was hot, boring, terrifying, foreign, and a hundred other things they didn't want to keep reliving. That's who I learned from. Moving on to Vietnam for my parents era, hippies didn't want war- and they were right. But it wasn't the soldier's fault. That was a shitshow that wasn't optional. I think that anger and scorn was a horribly misplaced, misprojected emotion. And I think the ones who deserved it, the Powers That Were, are the same ones who turned a nation's guilt right back to their bidding. As the people of a Nation, we didn't learn shit from Vietnam. If anything, the Thankers and the Fetishists are following in the footsteps of Johnson and Nixon and all the other assholes who sent soldiers to war for shitty reasons in the first place. We didn't learn to be be better thinkers, more skeptical of power, or more flexible in our perceptions of others.. no, we settled on having better MANNERS about being shortsighted,nationalistic bullies. I'm sorry that Patriotism as you and I believe in it has been co-opted. And, more than anything, I respect you for continuing to fight for it. I think the founding fathers- the writers, philosophers, soldiers, flawed men who believed in something bigger- they would have appreciated you too. Thank you, Jim. Not for your service, but for your patriotism. Thank you for STILL being in service to that.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Thank you for writing. My father was a quiet man and doubly so about his time in the Navy, so I surely do appreciate these glimpses into what that time might have been like. It truly is a disgrace that so many people seem to think they can demand that you be the “right kind” of veteran — what they want you to be to prop up their worldview. FW&FS

    ReplyDelete
  63. Is it possible that PTSD is the result of prolonged cognitive dissonance?

    ReplyDelete
  64. The utter lack of comprehension is one thing. The utter lack of consciousness in another. But the utter lack of compassion is stunning, and beyond description. You are absolutely correct when you say that those of us who joined the military are merely tools and toys to these people. Artifacts to be displayed when they're feeling patriotic, and just as quickly discarded when we are not EXACTLY who and what they want us to be.

    I wasn't in during "war time", that is, unless you include that little thing down San Salvador way, or that I was still in Panama when Noriega had General Torrijos blown out of the sky, and I've had people; actual living and breathing human beings, find this out and say to my face, "oh, you weren't involved in a conflict? Then you didn't really serve." Yeah, except that I was in conflict, as my job was fire fighter and crash/rescue specialist. Walking into burning buildings, and walking up to aircraft that was on fire loaded with hundreds of pound of HE (High Explosives), thousands of pound of jet fuel, and plenty of times with 4 to 6 nuclear warheads. They hear me say that and they would invariably say, "But that's not war. It doesn't count." That was pre 9/11 of course. Nowadays? Yeah, I get the same line as you do. That same look. That expression tells me just what they are thinking. "I have to express my thanks for this person who "served" because I didn't and I've been told that this is what I'm supposed to do, because somehow, they're better than me."

    Here in Santa Fe, it's not very bad at all, but when I was back home in L.A. after I got out, and when I lived in Las Vegas when 9/11 happened, it was all I could do not to tear into some people for this sheer lunacy. I just want to grab every last one of these morons, drag them to the nearest fire station, hospital, homeless shelter, etc. and scream at them, " Thank THEM for their service!"

    ReplyDelete
  65. My father joined the Air Force in 1951 and went to Korea, he assumed he'd serve out his enlistment and go back to life in Philadelphia. He stayed in the Air Force for 28 years. After he retired, in 1979, I almost never heard him talk about his service again. The military hadn't been turned into a sacred institution at that point, although there were plenty of vets who lived on telling war stories for beers. The Air Force cost him most of his hearing. Eventually, after years of simmering, the leukemia that lead to his death boiled up. The Department of Defense ruled that it was service-related. He worked in munitions, so I imagine the nastiness of HE and defoliant and napalm and nukes affected him through the years. Safety regulations weren't quite the same in those days.

    For the record, I cannot remember having ever thanked military personnel for their service. They know what they did, and why.

    ReplyDelete
  66. My father joined the Air Force in 1951 and went to Korea, figuring he'd serve his term of enlistment and go back home to Philadelphia. He stayed in the Air Force for 28 years. After he retired, in 1979, I almost never heard him talk about his service again.

    The military hadn't been turned into a sacred institution at that point, although there were plenty of vets who lived on telling war stories for beers. The Air Force cost him most of his hearing. Eventually, after three decades simmering, the leukemia that lead to his death boiled up. The Department of Defense ruled that it was service-related. He worked in munitions, so I imagine the nastiness of HE and defoliant and napalm and nukes affected him through the years. Safety regulations weren't quite the same in those days.

    For the record, I cannot remember having ever thanked military personnel for their service. They know what they did, and why.

    ReplyDelete
  67. I was always taught that it's rude not to TYFYS a veteran. You say "non-committal grunt," and I've sure heard plenty of those. Now I think I understand. Thanks for writing this. It never occurred to me.

    ReplyDelete
  68. My mom served in Vietnam. She typed for her country. People treat women vets a lot different than men vets. Not better or worse, just different.

    I'm a teacher. I understand about being a national symbol. When I tell people I'm a teacher, they either usually tell me that I'm a saint ("I could never do YOUR JOB!") or the devil incarnate (like Time Magazine's front cover of a hammer smashing an apple). Nobody lets us just be people. Everyone has an opinion.

    And when you tell them what you teach, they go on about how they either loved or hated that subject (I teach history, so it's usually 'hated') and then they talk forever about that. And I'm all, "Gee, I'd rather sand the skin off my arm and then apply lemon juice than talk about your weird stereotypes about my job, my value, my worth to society, and how we should fix education. Can you shut up and let me enjoy myself?"

    So while I've never been in your shoes, I understand what you mean about people taking you as a symbol and then talking about how they relate to that symbol instead of letting you be just another person. I do.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I learned a valuable lesson from my husband. See I grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas in the 1970s and 80s. Right next to Ft. Leavenworth. Surrounded by men who had been hated for their service. So I said thank you. Then I met my husband, who served in that war, many years later. He was a Navy medic, he works at the VA now. He never says thank you, he always says "Welcome Home." He says it was what he wanted to hear more than anything else. I have seen 19 year old marines collapse into his arms. So now I say that, nothing, or simply smile and nod. Veterans are humans. They deserve respect. That includes their privacy. So welcome home Jim and thank you, not just for that service, but for this one I think it is maybe the more important one.

    ReplyDelete
  70. That can't have been easy to write. I appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I had a lady thank me for my service followed by "Where did you serve" to which I replied "The cold war" but maybe next time I'll say Normandy beach just to be confusing. I'm all the time telling people that most of the veterans that I know do *not* think we deserve MORE healthcare, housing, education or anything else than any other American. I agree %100, this military 'hero' fetish stuff is creepy as hell. Taken to leaving my "Proud Woman Veteran" hat at home. Too much weird attention. Does keep men from saying weird stuff to me though sometimes ;) thank you for writing this. I hope it's your most shared blog post yet!

    ReplyDelete
  72. I thought about joining the corps of engineers in 2001. Go over, build infrastructure, do what I knew how to do and not have to live with killing someone myself. But then W. decided to invade Iraq, secure that beachhead in the Middle East that would lead us to occupying all of the region eventually. I didn't want to be any part of that. I was powerless to stop it, but I could sit on my hands and wait for everyone else to wake up to the reality of the transparent lie. I'm still waiting for that revelation to sink in. I'm beginning to doubt that it ever will.

    ReplyDelete
  73. One of my best friends is ex-military, with some very varied experiences. I've found what he mostly needs is what another ex-military friend called 'a fearless ear' - for me to listen to all of it, without his having to moderate his narrative.

    ReplyDelete
  74. I've read a lot of your work over the years, Jim, and I think this is one of the rawest and most powerful pieces you've ever written.
    Keep on doing what you do.

    ReplyDelete
  75. I cried reading this. I've never questioned why my father declined to speak about his 20 something years of military service that included 2 tours in Vietnam. I grew up in the military. My father taught his four children to never glorify war. That is was a job he chose to take, but one that killed a part of him. He's never gone to a reunion, never set foot in a VFW hall, never reminisces about his time overseas. It was hard for my father to see my brother, and then my nephew, go off to war. And in my family, the way we honor my father is to love him, and enjoy his company, without bringing up the past. He doesn't wear a hat with insignia, doesn't have a bumper sticker on his vehicle, or a special license plate, and he hasn't gone by Major since the day he was medically retired. He just goes forward with his life and makes damn sure he enjoys it. He and I both admire your writing and commentary. I look forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
  76. How the Hell are we going to provide Mental Health Services to our Veterans when we are Pavlovian reflex of Military Worship? Hopefully people will learn by listening to their veterans whether by verbal cues or physical stance or written cues. That we can be as perceptive and insightful and the insight you have given us so we can counter this culture in America and let everyone be valued for the right reason's. Thanks Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Tired Old Marine (We've PM'd in the past)May 5, 2019 at 4:38 AM

    I joined the Marines expecting to go to Vietnam. They never sent me there. My "service" primarily consisted of drinking all the beer I could so some poor civilian wouldn't have to, and making sure the level in the industrial coffee pot was never static for long. I avoided agent orange and instead got esophageal cancer from the coffee water at Camp Lejeune. That's actually a true statement. As I write this I'm two hours away from heading out on a ten hour drive to the Mayo Clinic. We beat the esophageal with chemo, radiation and surgery, but inside it was a nasty little secondary cancer, a mutation, the cancer that cancer gets and it's swimming around in my lymphatic system. Whatever, we beat the first one, and we have this one on the ropes. Karma is 'interesting', in the Chinese curse sense.
    Keep speaking truth to power, Chief. This old SSgt has your back.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Jim...your words continue to prove the laziness of so many who are either too lazy or scared to go beyond the sound bite. Or in this case, the magnetic yellow ribbon or trite phrases that make them feel better for being lazy. We have a friend who is so righteous and so proud to tell everyone how she does the same thing the cashier did to everyone she sees with what looks like a uniform on or a ballcap. Never a thought about the crap she supports that leads to guys like you who have been there and look for answers far deeper than the surface.

    I've said it before. Thanks for your words and thoughts. Keep being that voice that so many need to hear that is saying "WAKE UP." I share your words with folks (and make sure they know it's YOU and not me) in hopes that one of the closed minded idiots might see the light.

    Keep up the great writing and the photography; both are stunning. And if you ever make it up to the Chesapeake...the beers cold and the steamed crabs are awaiting you at the table.

    ReplyDelete
  79. This explains to me why I sometimes see a look of appreciation on Veterans faces when I don't do that whole thank you for your service bit and instead talk about whatever it is they're doing now. I hae wondered what that was about. Now I know. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  80. This was a sharp reminder of all the lies being told daily to achieve a political end leading to a financial end for many of those in power right now. It’s a reminder of how vigilant we all need to be In ferreting out the truth before passing judgment on others, either in a positive or a negative way. It is a reminder that we don’t realize what burdens others carry, and often insert ourselves into their narrative, because, of course, everyone else is exactly the same as we are, it is a reminder that there are so, so many people who are still being duped by those who currently control the White House, Judicial Branch and Senate, and that it is worth it to challenge every word they say. It is a reminder of how valuable the Press is, and those who speak truth to power. Thank you for your writing!

    ReplyDelete
  81. Jim, I am grateful for your writerly perseverance and your willingness to grapple with the complexities of, well, everything. In the years before his death, I tried to explain to my father (a hardcore Midwestern Conservative-turned-Liberal —after the grandkids and Obama arrived on the scene) why I was uncomfortable with him saying thank you to every veteran he met. He would bark at me or grumble and tell me I was the most ungrateful child he had ever met (he was also a man who would literally give someone the last dollar in his wallet and if he didn’t have one, he’d invite them home for a meal —and then cook it himself).

    The point of my rambling is that I had no way to explain why I felt profoundly uncomfortable thanking people who were just trying to go about their days and get stuff done. I also had no real understanding of my father’s complicated, Catholic guilt-ridden relationship with military service (he tried to enlist, but was rejected because of flat feet and the fact that his younger (perfect-child) brother had already enlisted) until after he died.

    This essay helped me make a little more sense of things, made me glad that I haven’t put military members on the position of having to make me feel good about myself, and made me love (and miss) my big-hearted dad.




    ReplyDelete
  82. I have never felt the need to thank a veteran for their service. I appreciate it. Indeed I do. As the widow of a veteran, I know what what they and their families risked and gave up in order for them to serve. My husband has been dead for 7 months. Everytime I call the VA, they thank me for my husband's service. They appreciate it so much that they have taken 7 months to "review" his death certificate to decide whether or not to give what the law says they must give me: his month of death disability payment. We don't really appreciate Veterans in this country. We pay lip service with the thank you for your service bs. If we really appreciated them, we would fight to make sure they got what they needed in a timely fashion rather than waiting years to get treatment. Years to get disabilty compensation. Often times going homeless or dying before they get it. Instead we say thank you and give them 10% off the price of pvc pipe.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Ah, let's hope this doesn't ban me. Well, I spent 20 years fighting for civil rights, decent housing, and an end to the incessant wars that the US dives into every few years. Back around 2001 this Thing happened. About that time, we activists started to get attacked. We were attacked because we didn't "support" the troops. Because I didn't think Colin Powell told the truth at the UN, and I knew that cops were racially profiling civilians in New York, that somehow those two things meant I didn't respect Marines or whomever was being sent off to fight or who died in that Thing. And when I say attacked, I don't mean "hey you liberal scum" - that's always been there - but I mean mobs of people attacking you. Today they'd have red hats on but we found that murmuring "thank you for your service" to random people did stop some of the beatings. Now, not for a second do I believe that anyone who attacked me or my colleagues was a veteran. It's part of this Orwellian urge among conservatives to toe the party line or get beaten. And it's back. So I murmur "thankyouforyourservice" all the time. And I don't mean disrespect to troops. I don't want to intrude on your personal life story. I just don't want conservatives who have never served to attack me because I didn't offer the proper prayer.

    ReplyDelete
  84. My boyfriend has strong emotions about veterans because he wishes he had served. He actually tears up with gratitude when he sees one. I read your FB post to him because I thought he needed to hear another viewpoint. He'd never considered that the thanks could bring up bad memories, so thank you for sharing that story.

    That aside, how the US fetishizes the military is disturbing and negates the contributions of all. I understand putting your life at risk is a momentous thing that I'm truly grateful for, but there are so many people fighting every day to make the world better that aren't holding a weapon.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Well-stated, as usual. Thank you for your prose and your beautiful photography.

    ReplyDelete
  86. You'd be a heck of a person to know... in a good way.

    ReplyDelete
  87. I join with the many others who thank you for your service as a writer, photographer, and chronacler of modern America. Your truth, which you speak, is a powerful one that needs a wide hearing in this country.

    ReplyDelete
  88. This must have been a tough one to write. I heard you. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Fantastic writing.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    People make stupid assumptions based on appearance all the time. I could pass for Archie Bunker's brother :)

    fwiw, I haven't cut my hair since 11/16. My inner dirty fucking hippie is now out and proud :)

    Dad was an aircraft mechanic in Korea. Went on to fly 747s.
    He never talked about Korea until the 80's when he got all whiney about the Vietnam vets getting more attention than he did. smh...

    ReplyDelete
  90. How often are citizens the puppets and fodder of egotistical politicians. Great blog, Jim. Been there, done that, understand. I was a Viet Nam draftee, drafted out of grad school. I do nothing to display my past in either military or law enforcement. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  91. Service.
    When my daughter wore the uniform, she couldn't get away from it. It embarrassed her. The thankyouforyourservice reflex seemed endless. It was all she could do to refrain from telling them that the military was just something she did so she could pay for college and find a decent job when she demobbed.
    i wasn't happy when she enlisted, although since she was the only one of our kids who had an idea about a future career path, i didn't discourage her. i'm proud of her for her choice and what she did for herself, but i was glad she got out before the current administration could get us into some other stupid military morass.

    i never thought i'd ever hear myself say it, but maybe it's time for this country to re-institute mandatory national service- and not necessarily military service. There are ways to serve the nation beyond being cannon fodder for some political adventurism. Even if it's two years of waiting tables and cleaning toilets- THAT'S vital service that few people ever even think about.

    ReplyDelete
  92. I read the original FB post and I struggled with it. On one hand, I totally get it. This country does worship the military and spends entirely too much money on it. My struggle (and I fully acknowledge that this is not your or any other veterans’ job to educate the public on) is that this country takes care of the war machine, the weapons, but the actual people? Not so much. How about we stop letting our folks on bases drink poison water? How about we pay a living wage to enlisted folks with families? How about we look at the rape culture perpetuated by the system? How about we offer real mental health care services ? How about we not make every Goddamn personnel issue so complicated and done on antiquated systems that don’t talk to each other?

    And then I go back to the thought that the military is full of people and in any group there are going to be a certain number of assholes. Not every veteran deserves to be thanked.

    So I struggle. Which probably means you did your job as a writer. Thank you for the service you give all of us by making us think.

    ReplyDelete
  93. God, the epilog reads like Catch 22. Like a boat carrying Nately's whore.

    ReplyDelete
  94. If this country didn't fetishize the military, few would serve. I can't begin to imagine killing others "just because." My dad was in the Army. He served during WWII. The reasons for that war are clear to me. The ones we're fighting now, endlessly, are not, and I suspect a lot of lying is going on in Washington to justify them. I wish to hell there was never a need for war. I wish to hell humans would grow up and lay down arms permanently, but given our long history of tribalism and the need to conquer, I don't suppose that will ever happen. So our young people will continue to pay a heavy price for the machinations of warmongers in Washington, and that makes me sadder than I can express.

    ReplyDelete
  95. You can't make people think for themselves, but essays like this might help them get started. Thank you for being a writer whose words come from the heart of honest experience, thank you for being someone who cares about the planet and its people, and thank you for helping to spread the message that if you want a better government and world you have to start by being a better citizen and person.

    ReplyDelete
  96. I come from a military family. They don't talk a lot about the details of their service.

    My desire to know does not override their right to be left alone.

    ReplyDelete
  97. Sorry you were lied to. Horrible thing to do to a person who has dedicated their life to an ideal and then have that dedication mis-used in a manner contrary to that ideal. Not many in the general population can imagine what that is like. I do have great anger over being lied to but rarely if ever does the lie take a piece of my soul.

    So thank you for your continuing service to your country with the blogs, tweets and posts about the lies being spread today. And pray that it does not end up taking more pieces of men and women’s souls.

    ReplyDelete
  98. Thank you for your service then. Thank you for your service now that is informed by all you have seen and done in your life. Thank you for loving woodworking and photography and cats and dogs and family and syfy and wordsmithing and political and social commentary. It's the whole package that keeps me following.

    ReplyDelete
  99. Jim,
    your experience is reminiscent of people who try to define for me what my experience as a Black woman in the US is. You beautifully encapsulate why you are so effing sick of people who politicize or glamorize military service.
    My father stole someone's statement so please forgive me for plagiarizing his plagiarism: "There is nothing glamorous about getting you ass shot off."

    ReplyDelete
  100. Damn Jim, keep writing what I think every day, 58 year old Army Vet here, 4 Active 6.5 in the guard. Enlisted at 18 in 1979 because I had no other choice. The GET A JOB or GET OUT OF THE HOUSE; I did both. There were no jobs to be had in L.A. where unemployment was between 6.3% to 10% the entire time I was serving. The Army gave me breathing room; The National Guard gave me $1800.00 to enlist with $900.00 up front...in 1983 just when I needed it. All my choices were economic survival choices.. so as you have said "But how I feel about my service is … complicated." and I still serve, Working for New York State in tech support and 10 more years until I get that government pension which was my plan when I enlisted.. it was to retire from the Army... that didn't happen...Tim Dill on FB Nuke_waste on twitter

    ReplyDelete
  101. I too know the feeling. My Dad before me did too and like you didn’t want to talk about those things you saw, felt, and were ingrained in your memories forever. The bad , the good, and the very ugly.
    You see he retired after 23 years in the Army in 1972 and for almost 40 years never talked about what had happened to him in Korea and Vietnam. After I served for almost 11 years, as my brother did too, and was out he took one day to tell me his story and I was flabbergasted to say the least, and understood why he hadn’t talked about it for so long I embraced him and cried because we both were in the same boat in many aspects. That was the last time he ever mentioned it and never would dare have him talk about it again.
    He passed away shortly after, another casualty of war from Vietnam, because of complications due to contact with Agent Orange. I live in the DC area and have very strong emotional response when I see the Vietnam Memorial Wall and can barely walk in front of it because as a kid when my Dad was sent 3 times we cried, and even more when he came home “safely” (not knowing the internal damage he had). The fact that the names of those who died in Vietnam are written there brings lots of tears because of those kids whose fathers never made it back. But still are missing those that died afterwards because of causes due to that war, whose names will never be remembered. I will remember them in silence as always.
    Thanks Jim for another beautifully written prose.

    ReplyDelete
  102. Thank you for sharing your opinions, reflections, and world view. You help me to see the world outside of my experience. I need that view. I grew up in a world filled with systemic racism, white privilege, misogyny, homophobia, corporate greed, political corruption and I thought it was normal. I want a different world. That one sucks. I am trying to learn as much as I can about how our government is meant to work and how we can minimize the corruption and greed across our nation. In your opinion, experience, and knowledge, why did they lie?

    ReplyDelete
  103. I seriously did not see how complex that first post was, when it was posted. I do now. Well written and exactly why I follow THIS veteran around the internet.

    ReplyDelete
  104. Wow, what a great piece.

    As someone who has thanked you for your service in response to one of your Tweets, this was very impactful. My appreciation of those who serve(d) is sincere, having never served myself, but I've never gotten a reaction like the one you've written about here. If I had, I don't know how I would have taken it. Being honest, I probably would have been pissed and called you an ungrateful SOB after the fact.

    Now, however, I want to believe that I'd have a little more understanding. For all the evils that originate with social media, there are instances where these platforms help people like me understand what it's like to have a different life experience. This is one of them, and I thank you for it.

    ReplyDelete
  105. Thank you, Jim, I read your essay last night and was so moved my body was shaking. My heart aches for what you’ve endured. I’ve been following you for years, I respect your views and I hope someday peace finds you in every way possible. It is men like you that gives my heart hope. I want to thank you for being you.

    ReplyDelete
  106. As a kid I spent a lot of time in American Legion Posts and VFW bars. I was a bar baby and I drank my root beer and listened. Veterans talked about jobs, kids, wives, lousy bosses not war. The conversations were about everyday stuff, politics, Mike Royko's column, bills. After going trough hell in WWII and Korea the veterans clung to the mundane, the banal since they came back. My dad used to say, "I should of died in the war but God brought me home, maybe for you kids." I had seven brothers and sisters. My father fought death by creating, supporting, nurturing life maybe to make up for all the lives lost. He had compassion for the fallen enemy too and told the story about a German after Germany fell digging through horseshit on the road looking for undigested kernels of corn--the defeated were starving. My dad saw no glory in war and if anyone had thanked him for his service, he would looked at them as if they were nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  107. Sir, this is one of your most impactful writings for me.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  108. Years ago, some smarmy yuppie told me "real respect=$$$$".

    I hated that guy. I still hate that guy. He was smarmy and slick and I had to work for him for 2 years and I still shower when I think about him. But I think about him every time one of my vet buddies has to fight to get their health care out of the VA, or it's bolluxed horribly because the VA won't authorize the right thing so they waste cash on eight stupid and cheap things rather than doing the thing that will FIX my friend. I think about that asshole every time I read about military families having to get food stamps. I read that article about military housing with black mold and have to think about that jerk again. I'm a military brat-- I have some sense of how it all works and it's been broken a while.

    Which is why the gunhumping ammosexuals with their flag and crying eagle t-shirts make me even more mad and inspire the urge to hunt down and dismember Mr. Smarm because he was at least a little bit right-- none of those assholes would fish a penny off the ground to actually make sure vets get a living wage or decent healthcare or even a half-way ok paying job after they get out, but they have so much "respect for our troops". Respect. Huh. Whatever it is they're respecting... it ain't the military. It's some fable. It's something ELSE. Dunno what.

    No neat way to wrap this up. Just thinking out loud.

    ReplyDelete
  109. Thanks for this entire post! Not only are they empty-headed and spewing platitudes, they defend their stupidity when you say you've had enough. So they're rude too. Geez . . .

    ReplyDelete
  110. i'm not a veteran. but what you've written is parallel to my feelings about this country in general... the pseudo-patriotism constantly forced down your throat, which is actually not patriotism at all but nationalism. but "ACCEPT IT, godammit, or you're not a real american and GET THE FUCK OUT!" things with pics of flags and eagles make me cringe instead of firing me up with tbe fever of american exceptionalism. the absolute terror of the masses to accept that their country is NOT a shining white knight saving the world from all the evil surrounding us.

    i can't begin to understand the complexity of what you've gone through. but the words you've written will always live in my mind. i'll be reading it to my father this evening.

    ReplyDelete
  111. Mr. Wright,

    I saw this essay from a thousand miles away when you posted your Twitter comment about trying to buy sprinkler parts. (Literally: I live about a thousand miles away.)

    I feel the same way as you. I just want to go out and do my business; I don't want every transaction in public to be a referendum about my own service in the Navy.

    I was gobsmacked at all the women suggesting maybe you should wear your hair differently or dress differently. You'd think they'd be a bit more self-aware. Maybe you should smile more. /s

    I wear my hair differently. It goes past my shoulders. You know what that doesn't do? Get me out of the "thankyewferyerservice" comments. It's not about the clothes, or your hair, or your bearing.

    I'm also proud of my service, though I became disabled and only completed seventeen years. I would have completed twenty-two if it wasn't for fate (or whatever you want to call it). Like you, everyone in my family has been in the military, and those of us still alive are proud of what we've done.

    And like you, my mother, my sister, and me would just like to live our lives. You'd think we earned that much after our military service.

    ReplyDelete
  112. I am going to thank you for a different service. I would like to thank you for the service that you have done by writing this article and by raising these questions.

    The military seem increasingly to be a political tool - not just in the sense that the military in all its branches is a way to impose the will of a government on other people but in the sense that love of the military is turning into a virtue in its own right. It used to be said that the more of a scoundrel that a politician was, the more that he loved the flag. In a way, lip service to respect for the military has replaced that...

    But is lip service real respect? What is the military? I don't think that most people who use the phrase really know. I have never served but I suspect that military folk are just like anyone else. They can't be the poster boy image that is shoved down our throats. Maybe they are just people trying to do their best to follow orders issued by people far away who don't see that the map is not the territory. Maybe they are trying to keep themselves and their buddies alive even when they have no idea if what they are being told to do is a good idea. Maybe, just maybe, they are human beings like us. And maybe we ask far too much of them.

    If they are indeed human beings just like us civilians, then maybe the best way to treat them is... well, just like anyone else.

    A good and moving piece, very thought provoking. Thank you for writing it.

    ReplyDelete
  113. I have uttered the occasional "TYFYS" a few times when I have encountered service men and women while out and about. I thought I was doing MY duty as a person who was truly grateful for their willingness to serve our country in that way....until I caught a glimpse of---something---on their face. It was something I didn't quite get, but it caused me to put myself in their shoes for a moment and think on how *I* would feel having to hear that several times a day...and started to realize that "serving your country" (TM) probably comes with a heavy price tag that I could only vaguely comprehend, most likely one centered around a mountain of guilt that stems from trying to mentally rectify actions vs values vs justice vs a million other thoughts and emotions and memories. I started reading the words of people such as yourself,and I began to understand. In other words...I learned. And for THAT, I thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  114. It take a very conscious effort to view things from another's point-of-view, walk in their shoes ~ as it were. It allows one to pick up the 'coat of humanity' from another and for one brief moment try and feel as they might within their own skin, then mustering the maturity to realize that we don't "know it all" when simply looking at someone's reaction to, well, anything. Sadly, too few people take the time to develop this. So we are left with very minimal knee-jerk responses that fall flat and offend. Thank you for this sharing, Jim. It is a very important 'exercise' in understanding, and a very important dialog I hope our citizens can one day have as grown ups.

    ReplyDelete
  115. What your service certainly earned is the right to feel about your service as you do. And to express, or not, as you will about that service and those feelings.

    Except that's bullshit, isn't it?

    Your service did not earn you those rights. Your service did not earn the right to see your life, your contributions, your goods, and bads as you see fit They did not earn you to right to change your views on your experiences as you will. Or express yourself about those views. Or not express yourself.

    Your service did not earn any of that. Nobody earns that. Those rights are yours as they are everybodys’.

    What your service did not do is take those rights away.

    ReplyDelete
  116. Couple decades back I was celebrating a 50th birthday with a good friend who's a Nam vet. It was about 2 AM and we were pretty drunk and sitting outside so I could smoke a cigar...one of his neighbors came peacock strutting up and said " I now you was in the war did you kill anybody?" I watched this mask come down over his face and he said in that cold/calm helicopter pilots voice "Who wants to know?" I've known this man nearly 40 years now and I never asked that cause I already knew the answer...he flew gunships.

    ReplyDelete
  117. Jim, when you were serving, you were what is meant by the phrase "citizen soldier." And now you are a true citizen of the country we aspire to be -- the country that actually tries to live up to its ideals -- as well as a terrific writer. I'm grateful for that.

    ReplyDelete
  118. Thanks for sharing, Jim.

    My dad, brother, ex-husband, son, and countless friends have also served. I served. I never quite know how to respond when someone thanks me for my service. I feel awkward. I don't know whether to say "you're welcome" or "thank you" back to them. I mean, I get why they do it--I reckon some kind of national shame and guilt in how the Vietnam vets were treated when they returned home almost half a century ago.

    I didn't join the service for thanks from fellow citizens who didn't have the wherewithal to consider the military as an option. I joined the Navy because I was newly divorced and saw it as a way to get "free" training and on-the-job experience. I joined during peacetime, and was fortunate enough that my entire enlistment was served during peacetime. My reasons were purely selfish, then again, I came from a service family so I guess it was a natural progression for me.

    I am proud of the contribution I made in service to my nation. I had once in a lifetime experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise. I just wish more Americans who "thank us for our service" had the intestinal fortitude to put their thanks into service of their own.

    ReplyDelete
  119. part 1
    I wrote this bit last year when the model of the Vietnam Wall came to our town. I decided to NOT send it to the local paper because I expected to be called unpatriotic. I'm 75 now, I thanked Bob for his life by contacting his sister in law (name found from his Mom's obit) and learned she had named the son she was pregnant with after his Uncle Bob. I learned her son had died a year ago from complications of the flu. She had lost far more than I had.

    ReplyDelete
  120. Back in Dec 1965, A 23 year old single female, I was at SFO after dropping someone off. My eyes got stuck on a guy in uniform who looked remarkabley like my friend Ken who I knew, was in Viet Nam. Ken was in Special Forces, a SP4, had studied and spoke Vietnamese, courtesy of the US Army. His father had also been in the military, it was a choice he had made to become a soldier.

    Bob walked over and asked, "what are YOU staring at?" Caught, I said something I'm sure now was meaningful and we ended up walking all around San Francisco together, exploring the city and the Presidio. The history of the Presidio is fascinating, you might want to investigate it. It also has the most wonderful view of the sea and fog coming in. It's a national park now.

    I learned from Bob that he was "shipping out" the following day. He told me he had been working on the DEW Line (look it up if you have to) in Fairbanks, Alaska, so he had been exempt from the draft. Lots of people were exempt, but mostly imbeciles, infirms, and students of higher education. It was a really good reason to stay in school.

    Well, Bob's Mom had gotten very ill. He left his job in Alaska and returned to his home in one of those small towns in eastern Mass, near Boston. Remember, this was in 1965...the war had been going on since 1955 and now, the war effort required soldiers. (number of casualties in 1965 were less than 2,000, the next year the number blossomed to over 6,000, in 67 up to over 11,000 and hit the peak in 68 with something like 16,899 dead. The dreaded DRAFT Boards were looking for live bodies. Since money could easily buy a deferment, many young men who were able bodied but disinterested in anything other than their own personal futures, careers, jobs, were able to avoid going to serve their country. This left those who couldn't afford to buy out, stuck with carrying the entire load. Bob's draft board found him with his sick mother, drafted him, and sent him "over there."

    I moved from San Francisco back to NYC. I got a letter from Bob mailed on Dec 27, 1965. It was 3 pages written in pencil because that was what he could get. It was newsy, he had begun exploring where he was, exploring the culture. He wrote it over a period of 3-4 days. He said he wanted to marry me. He was looking for his future. The next letter was mailed Feb 8, 1966. It was a single, quickly written page. He had been moved to a place called Tuyen Nhon. He wrote "For the past two weeks it's been hectic here. Charlie probed us last week & when it was over he had left 78 bodies on the wire. We had one KIA & four W.A. The only other excitement is a daily visit by Charlie in the form of mortars, usually between 1 & 5AM. So much for the war stories. Ive got to get ready for an operation so I'll sign off."

    A month later, my letter was "returned to sender." The rubber stamp stated "Verified Deceased Return to Sender..R.A.KOLIN, Capt. AGC, Asst Adj Gen." The back was stamped "Cusualty Mail" and dated MAR 7 1966. That was the moment I turned against that war, became a demonstrator against it. Contrary to the ideas of many, I was never against the men who served in the military. My anger was and still is directed toward the corporations and politicians who promoted it.

    I recently learned from a website that he had died in Tuyen Nhon. Cause of death was "friendly fire" or "misadventure," he had died from his wounds. He has never married anyone, never had children, never lived in this America to see what we've become. What a waste of a life.

    I know his name is on the Vietnam Memorial, I had seen it a few years ago when I was in DC. I won't be going to the field to see his name again. I have his letters and memories of spending 2 days with him in the warm San Franciso sunshine. And a continueing saddness about economic and political wars.

    ReplyDelete
  121. Your response to the cashier was completely understandable. Sadly, his behavior is endemic of many these days. The public, driven by guilt and implied social correctness, tries to compensate for perceived wrongs by giving lip service to those who they think represent a group or class of people who were unfairly maligned or who sacrificed for the common good in the past. Details and individual stories mean nothing - instead you are homogenized into the roughly defined batch of folks who deserve our thanks... or our pity... or our thoughts and prayers.

    But the resulting catharsis only relieves their guilt, their need to apologize for some real or imagined behavior that the group they represent may or may not have done to the group they think you represent. It does nothing to address the very real problems and issues the recipients actually have. Agent Orange exposure, PTSD, the aftermath of the injections Desert Storm troops were forced to take etc remain mostly unaddressed, unresolved and ultimately ignored by the public as the oxygen in the room is wasted on making them feel better rather than doing anything for those who actually carried the water.

    ReplyDelete
  122. Now I feel better about NOT saying, "thanks for your service" to every vet I see. I thank my brother, uncle, cousin, coworker, and brother's father-in-law and brother-in-law on Veterans day. As a suicide prevention researcher, I get not wanting to bring up possibly painful memories just so I can feel good about myself.
    Also, thanks for the response to the LOL/hangry woman. You see that crap with people responding to a depressed friend - "just go out with friends/exercise/have a Snickers", you'll feel better. Yeah, that's not how depression works. Other people's problems are always so easy to solve...

    ReplyDelete
  123. I know the problem of post-traumatic stress well. In my country, things are worse than in the United States. The good guys are under the constant attack of the mafias. It is a permanent war. When you realize that the war will never end, you decide to accept post-traumatic stress as part of your life. Playing video games; read amazing novels; Do exercise outdoors. All that helps. But what really helps to overcome stress is having an exciting project. (hunt a treasure, write a novel, etc)
    As for the endless war, I guess I'm a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi; waiting in my cave on Tatooine; waiting to see if destiny has decided that I am one more piece of history. Do not forget the civilized art of the sword; maybe one day the war will come to us; but meanwhile, try to control your warrior anger. That anger will be useful during future wars, to protect everyone, but remember that civilians are not part of the war, anger is not useful with them. As they say in the movie "The Godfather": "Do not shit where you eat". (I do not justify the mafia philosophy, but as SunTzu says, it uses the captured resources of the enemy, and of course, the useful fragments of effective philosophy are useful.
    Nothing changes if we do not want the change. Premeditatedly he faces situations like the cashier, with the idea of ​​looking relaxed and patient and friendly. Practice makes perfect, and pretending is part of the warrior's tools. You are still a warrior. Practice.

    Signature: The shadow of the mouse on the moon.

    ReplyDelete
  124. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for writing this. I too, dislike the now seemingly mandatory thank you for your service phrase. If I'm having a bad day I look 'em in the eye and say did you know part of my work was to make sure we were ready to destroy all life on this planet at a moment's notice? (ewo) You really want to thank me for that?

    ReplyDelete
  125. I'm glad you wrote this because I am not a veteran, but I have been watching the Right and the way it has 'talked the talk' when it comes to the Military and to Veterans, despite usually "walking the walk" in the opposite direction. It makes me uncomfortable to say "thank you for your service" because I can't help wondering if the veteran in front of me feels like a political pawn or doesn't and enjoys the attention. I know what it feels like to be a pawn of convenience when it comes to other people from time to time, and I know I don't like that kind of attention either.

    I think I will just stick to behaving with respect and not worry so much about inflicting "the talk" on the Vets and Military.

    ReplyDelete
  126. I was in the submarine service from ‘86 to ‘91. I got a medal for Desert Storm (along with everybody else on active duty), even though I was thousands of miles away; what does that say to those who were actually in harm’s way? I was uncomfortable enough about the pretext of that four day war, much less what you were co-opted into.
    I don’t get the thankwewferyersevich very often (I didn’t keep the haircut), but when I do, it always weirds me out. What am I supposed to say just because I pulled a particular credit card out? I’m not ashamed of my service, it’s an important part of me, but I’m not looking for thanks from people who don’t know anything about it.
    What you’ve written here is powerful and important. Too bad the people who really need to hear it aren’t listening.

    ReplyDelete
  127. Thank you, Jim. This needed to be said.

    I did 20 in the Navy, Submarine Electronics, and for my entire career, 1976 to 1996, no one outside of my immediate family gave one solitary fuck about my service.

    But that was okay. I wasn't serving for the nonexistent thankful masses. I was serving for my own reasons. That's why I tolerated those blissful idiots who suggested that I wasn't smart enough for college and was too lazy for a 'real job'. I did my job, did my duty, missed Christmases, anniversaries and birthdays because I believed then, and still believe today that the job was important and needed to be done.

    I retired and I started a 'real job' that has me home from work at 5:30 every single week day, and every weekend off, and my boss felt the need to have a counselling session with me when he found out I liked to be in an hour early to get my ducks in a row prior to starting time. It wasn't like I was on the clock or anything, I was salaried, but I have an official letter in my HR file saying I'm in too early and tend to stay late as well.

    Civilians are weird.

    Then 9/11 happened. Suddenly complete strangers were questioning my patriotism. One particular clown came to my house one weekend in mid September 2001 to ask why I wasn't flying a US flag, like all the other houses in the neighborhood.

    I simply pointed out that I had neither the time nor inclination to properly display a flag, unlike all the other houses in the neighborhood that were flying flags that were not rated for weather day and night, unlit 24/7 in direct conflict with the Flag Code.

    Then he questioned my patriotism. I asked how often he flew the flag during my 20 years of military service. I then suggested that he might want to remove himself from my property before I did it for him.

    Since then I have been assured that all veterans are 'conservatives'. People who tell me this get rather upset when I laugh at them. Since none of those who have told me this appear to have worn the uniform themselves, I'm not sure what their source of information might be.

    I know veterans of every service of every political bent. I even know a Marine who is a devotee of Ayn Rand. Of course other Marines make fun of him for being able to read. (I joke, I joke)

    I agree with you about 'thankyouforyourservice', it tends to come across with all the sincerity of the 'haveaniceday' we heard so much of in the 70s and 80s. Especially when you notice that the cashier's register screen flashes a message telling them to do it.

    The only thing better than required patriotism is required thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  128. There is actually an easy way out of it. Especially when asked by someone yo0u don't know and will never see again. When you're asked if you served, just say "Nope." Or, "I would have, but got caught up in don't ask, don't tell."

    ReplyDelete
  129. During WW2 both my parents were in the resistance. We children got only very limited stories, and that rarely. After many years a friend returned from living in Israel and i brougth my parent over for a visit. In the hours that followed, I learned more about WW2 than in the years before.

    After the visit, it was silence again. They could not talk on that subject.

    I took me yet another number of years to realize why, thanks to discussions with a now deceased wiser friend. Those who have not shared the experiences, cannot relate to the memories, and cannot respond in a proper way. You could say that there is no shared language. And thus talking will trigger conflicted memories and emotions, yet no sharing. As a result most will avoid talking.

    Few of those with such experiences are able to find the words to talk and discuss with people without those experiences.

    All need respect, and all of them prefer to live their lives as normal as they can. A ritual and empty "thank you" is no help.

    ReplyDelete
  130. I am so glad my friend referred me to your writing. You said what I have been thinking since Jan. 2017. The fake t shirts, the American/Confederate flags flying , the false BS of thank you for your service nonsense. My Dad was a 22 year Army man and served in Vietnam. He did not go around looking for a pat on the back. He did not have a 110 guns in his house/car. He told people he had used a gun to many times. Then there is a cousin of mine from the "forgotten" desert storm. Oh Please you served 2 years. That man in the hardware store might thank cops etc but only because he is programmed watching Fox Ne@@, not because he give a flip in the wind. Sorry I am not that good putting my thoughts into words. Thank you for writing this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  131. I've been thinking about this quite a lot since my wife gave me a blue ball cap that proclaims: "US AIR FORCE Veteran". I have had this hat for several years now and I wear it nearly every day when I go out in public.

    I am proud of my service and especially so because I volunteered. After teaching in the "inner city" for two years I had come to the realization that some of my eight grade students could get drafted that next year and have no idea what they were in for nor why. I was offered an occupation deferment which I declined in favor of active duty and at my first duty station, I volunteered for Vietnam.

    Well as it happens, in its own way, the Air Force sent me to Thailand and it was there that I made my contribution to the war in Vietnam. I received the Vietnam service ribbons and medals and was also decorated for my service.

    As soon as I started to wear the hat, I was stunned that people actually went out of their way to give me their offering of "thankyouforyourservice." Some even wanted to shake my hand.

    I was stunned and at first found it difficult to stammer any acknowledgment other than to nod, smile and keep on moving. It happens every week and considering the small, small place that rural Maine is, I am still stunned.

    Lately I have started just to say, "thanks for saying that," and then keep on moving.

    Now with the advantage of history, I don't think my service in that war was particularly noble and certainly the war itself served no purpose and arguably was simply wrong. At the time arguments along those lines were for those way above my pay grade. I did my job and I did it as I was instructed.

    I still wear my Air Force veterans hat. I'll continue to acknowledge anyone who offers me thanks. But I'll not get into a discussion about what I did or where I did it. The thing is most people wouldn't understand the nature of the war in which fought, nor care.

    "Thank you for your service."

    "Than you for saying that." (Smile. Keep on moving.)

    ReplyDelete
  132. I read the original post and totally "got it" and now I've read this and get it even more - can I just offer a cyber hug??

    ReplyDelete
  133. Thank you for being you. My brother is as conservative as they come, he still (Desert Shield/Storm) won't say anything about his service, and I do not pry..

    So I say thank you for being you (you deserve to buy your damn lawn care equipment in peace)

    I know you're not looking for kudos

    you are a lamp to me though..

    thank you for that..

    ReplyDelete
  134. I'm a VietNam (era, not in country) Marine veteran. I (probably) shop at the same national hardware chain you shop at. Some of the cashiers ignore the "please say thank you for your service" prompt. I'm fine with that, as long as I get my discount.

    For the ones who do say it I tell them to register and vote, I fought (not really, I never saw combat) for it, and they'll thank me every two years.

    Not sure what I'd do is someone fawned over me for serving, but I recall a little of my Marine language.

    ReplyDelete
  135. Welcome home, Brother.

    ReplyDelete
  136. I can count on my two hands the number of times I've thanked a service member for their service and most of the time it's been while I was in an airport and they were in uniform/fatigues. I figured they were on their way out or on their way home. Also, I wasn't as aware of politics and thought that they really weren't getting enough thanks. That they would appreciate that someone noticed them and appreciated what they did. It was never rote for me. I would look them in the face, touch their arm or hand if it seemed welcome, and talk with them for a minute or two if they had time. I guess I know better now and I'll keep my mouth shut. And perhaps just send them my thanks and good thoughts in my head.

    ReplyDelete
  137. Perhaps the best 'thank you...' a civilian can offer to a vet is to fckn pay attention to what one's elected officials are doing, and VOTE in every election.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. And thanks to Jim for clarifying this for all of us with good intentions (Hell, anybody?) who have mucked it up royally without meaning to.

      Delete
  138. Thank you for writing. You are in such a unique place to tell this truth, to even hear it feels like a sudden deep breath after someone holding you under the water.

    ReplyDelete
  139. I think this all started back in the 90's with Desert Storm and then went on steroids after 9/11 with Afghanistan and Iraq. I think part of it was the desire by society at large to avoid the mistakes of how Vietnam veterans were treated - that is, ignored, swept under the rug, left to deal with their memories and injuries on their own. And I think certain people took that desire and amplified it for their own political purposes (What? You're criticizing the war? Why do you hate our vets?). And now it's become almost a...tradition, I guess you'd say. And that's begun to cheapen it. When it was an occasional thing, it means more than when every cashier, every waiter, every bank teller is saying the same thing.

    A far better thank you to veterans would be to stop electing the fools that keep getting us into stupid, selfish, and avoidable wars that keep putting them in harm's way.

    ReplyDelete
  140. As usual, Jim, you have expressed something that appears pretty damn common among veterans whether they saw combat or not. The business of whether you were a “real vet” or not is aggravating to me, but I guess it boils down to people being stupid. The fetishized veterans status of today, that’s the thing that really sucks.
    Me, I’m one of those guys who served Stateside, in cold air conditioned computer rooms, making sure that commo was good and weather data got to the right places. I was not one of the guys on the sharp end of the spear, but I was one of the many making sure the spear shaft was good and solid.
    BUT - some of the work I did, played a direct role in making sure our ICBMs would hit their targets. I played a role in potential megadeaths and the end of civilization. Small, but a role. If that isn’t enough to make a person ponder, nothing will. And frankly, it’s a thought that mostly stayed buried, and I’m normally happy to keep it out of mind. So, while I will take a vet discount and don’t mind talking about it, I also totally understand the reaction to being thanked for my service.

    Thank you - for your writing, for being able to distill these things into such clear essays, and for being able to keep serving by your publishing those essays. Oh, and for taking so many cool and wonderful pictures of dogs and other things, and sharing them with us!

    ReplyDelete
  141. Thank you for your absolutely eloquent, poignant candor!

    I absolutely love your photography! The photos you share are as breathtaking as your essays are insightful and thought provoking.

    Please keep sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  142. I was Vietnam-era, but served as a professional liar in a US Army post newspaper office. I ended up with a 1-A-O status at discharge, (now changed to disabled in the records, but _I_ remember.)
    Not one Veteran who knows why I applied for Conscientious Objector status has ever criticized me for it...
    Bu civilians can't leave it alone.
    I've even been told that a woman _can't_ have a legitimate reason to become a C.O., or to be rated service-connected.
    "Thank you for your service"? Um... yeah. They should thank me. But not for what they're thanking me for, which they don't understand and yet despise.
    Please keep writing.

    ReplyDelete
  143. Thank you for your ability to communicate a cogent idea and message. My Dad, a WWII veteran, taught me "there is no good war." I guess he was paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin. I never served but I understood a bit better when I read Wilfred Owen's, "Dulce et Decorum est". The Greek poet Horace understood this over 1000 years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  144. You're the best fucking writer I know. And all I seem to see on Facebook and other places are what Vets "ought to get". About "Fuck the immigrants - support our Vets!!". Or "Screw welfare people - support homeless vets!". And I go crazy. I didn't serve as long as you or with as much distinction, but I did my peacetime 12 and got out. I enjoy my 10% discount at Lowe's and a few other places. I am thanked and I quietly acknowledge it. But so many of these folks NEVER SERVED. They don't have the perspective that many of us got from seeing other places on this planet - places where they have 1/10th of what we have and still have 1000% more appreciation for it all. I never signed up to get something other than discipline and perhaps a skill. I got both. I'm grateful for what I got. And it does indeed irk the living SHIT out of me when people who did serve try their best to squeeze every little iota of "gratitude" out of the public. Or when do-gooders try to get every little thing for Vets when they never served themselves. They want to do something for this country? Support someone who actually makes things BETTER for Vets. Support someone who will work to STOP the creation of Gold Star families because we don't need to get more killed in places that don't benefit us at all.I love my country. I loved the Navy. But stop idolizing us because the people who served are no better than anyone else. Say "thank you" and then donate something somewhere to make a difference. That is all the thank you I'd ever really desire anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  145. ummm...thank you for not dying or getting injured during your service...and you are welcome for any training and education you received during that same service...ok then, the lawn is counting on you...as my lawn always accuses me of being inattentive...

    ReplyDelete
  146. Any time I meet a Veteran I think about you. My maternal grandfather was a WWII vet. He was a good man, with his faults. His son, my maternal uncle, died from the cumulative consequences of the decades of drugs and alcohol he pumped into his body after Vietnam.

    You give me a window into the things they went through and the true human cost of those experiences that I would not otherwise have. Thank you for sharing what you do. Thank you for this service, right here.

    ReplyDelete
  147. I don't have your experience. I can't begin to imagine the things you've witnessed that you keep hidden deep. I have experienced betrayals in my life, but never on the scale you have. In fact, I don't even have the privilege of calling myself American.

    We have so little in common it would be impossible for me even to explain why I've followed your feeds except to say that your writing touches something resonant inside me.

    There is an honesty, a clarity, and a vulnerability in your writing that draws me in.

    I haven't even ever met you face to face and had a conversation.

    But I will go to my grave knowing that you have and abiding decency about you that those of us, from the outside, have seen and I STILL see in America.

    Gratitude IS, in its essence, a verb.

    My writing to you is that.

    ReplyDelete
  148. I appreciated your post - your honesty is always appreciated. I wish as a country - we were grateful for all the ways people serve. But humans are finicky - I can remember my father going postal over the way people treated Vietnam vets coming home - he had served and was prisoner of war. Me, well I am a teacher, which used to be a 'respected' profession, now it is vilified. And eventually, the tides will change! Keep writing... people NEED to hear it, more importantly I hope they listen, really listen. Alas, we all have our opinions, that we cling so tightly to...

    ReplyDelete
  149. Thank you for so eloquently stating the weight we carry. I'm sitting in my daughter's gymnastics gym, bawling in the corner. Trying to remain unseen so that I don't have to explain it to someone who won't understand. They'll never understand that we're proud of what we did, just not everything we did.

    ReplyDelete
  150. I was there that night, just north of you, Strike Officer on a DDG. So proud, so vindicated. I'd been watching message traffic for strike packages, keyed up, ready to go. Our call came, we broke records with the speediness of our launches, we were champions.

    Then we got the BDA, less vindicated, less proud, we'd done our job very effectively.

    I've settled into the "it was an honor and a privilege" response, because it was an honor to serve my country and a privilege to serve with the people I did serve with.

    I teach now and I have tried to teach the 9/11 lessons, I can't, I was there, it brings back too much.

    ReplyDelete
  151. I'm a Navy vet too. I guess. My service years were spent in an air conditioned avionics shop and my stories are all boring. I don't feel much like a veteran, but I am. I guess. "Thank you for your service (tm)!" Nod. Thanks. I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  152. You are a reflective person. But you did your duty as you saw it. To serve is still worth being proud about. Despite the ugliness of the events that you write about. I too wish we could hold the high ground. Just read about the planning by Ben Laden. Even his close advisor warned that the killing of so many was a violation of his highest religious code. We went berserk and violated some of our sanity. I supported the Iraq War at the time. Only in historical retrospect can one get the real panoramic view. Meantime the sailor and soldier has to do what he signed on for. With respect, sir. For you and your men.

    ReplyDelete
  153. Jim, been following you for years. I am a far better person because of you and many others. Though not a vet, it runs centuries deep in my family, my Dad was Navy. For 25yrs in my adult life I was a volunteer EMT in rural Alaska, 12 as a paid flight medic. Though not combat as seen by our military or law enforcement, I treated the sick and injured of all ages. Did not matter color of skin, gender, economic status. Most lived, some died, some right in front of me. We saw hope, we saw despair, we saw what money can buy and what it can't. It did not matter, the job was done to possibly give someone another day.
    Your writing gift sets deep in me and I thank you. I have had many thank me for saving a life or be in awe as we work around the plane. Often I heard, "how can we ever thank you?" my reply often was to be the best person they can be for themselves and others - to make the best of each day.
    I am "retired" from that and at 58, simply work a labor job as in my past, and seek to simply get back to driving trucks. I am at peace. But - I rage at the fuckery that takes place all in the quest for the dollar. As you so well state Jim, "I got mine, fuck you" attitude so prevalent in our country has me tired but determined. Sorry for the ramble, it is near midnight up here in Alaska, but we are with you Jim. I gain peace that you and many who follow restore my faith in humanity. It enables me to be a part of that team. Being a better citizen to make a better country.
    Keep the camera going, the pen moving. Fair winds and calm seas to you and your expanding family - that totally includes your wonderful dogs.

    ReplyDelete
  154. After following you for years, I'd gotten bits and pieces of your service experience and pieced them together like a puzzle. It's like this post filled in all the pieces that were still missing.

    I wish there was something I could do or say. As a Navy brat of a career officer myself, I do understand a little bit about having the fierce pride in your family member, who left his tiny hometown impoverished and came back from service as an officer who made good, possibly the only one in his family who did anything but continue that cycle of poverty.

    Yet, at the same time, I feel that sorrow that we--America--is not that shining city on a hill that always does the right thing. Sometimes we do the wrong thing.

    How do we as a country reconcile those two things?

    That our people, ALL of them, not just the white ones, or the Christian ones, or the military ones, are actually what make us great.

    I can tell you that in Texas it IS almost mandatory to do the "Thanks for your service" thing to a complete stranger, just like it is almost mandatory to attend the evangelical church of your choosing. To abstain from either is to invite scrutiny and challenges to your claim to love our country.

    But I can tell you that after this post, I will never again carelessly toss those words out like small talk again.

    Thank you for continuing to say what needs to be said.

    ReplyDelete
  155. Damn, bro, I get it too. You're making an old Army medic cry. Shit, my daughter is a combat engineer with the 25th ID at present; she'll have to deal with this too. My wife of 24 years years loves me deeply, but she doesn't get why I cringe when I hear that "Thank you for your service!" bullshit and always cheerfully rendered like it's a marketing jingle..

    ReplyDelete
  156. Thank you for being the kind of writer who sometimes puts words to things I've wished I knew how to express, and sometimes opens my mind to facts, opinions, and a different perspective than I ever imagined. Whatever else you may be now and might have been previously; you, sir, are a damn fine writer and I would like to thank you for that.

    ReplyDelete
  157. Wow. I have been following you for a couple years now and I love your candor and wit. You are a truly gifted writer and you make your reader think, which I appreciate very much. This might be the most compelling post of yours that I've read. Thank you for sharing your perspective here, it matters and I hear you. It's frustrating to say the least that instead of open dialogue and really listening and trying to learn from those who have a different opinion or perspective, many folks resort to slinging insults and derogatory, ignorant statements. I look forward to learning more from you.

    ReplyDelete
  158. Why do so many people lead with cloying manners? My opinion only, but maybe there are far more peacocks auditing employees' performance than there are peacocks calling shots in military service. Therefore, "thank yous" become reflex, inconsiderate. Yeah, it's maddening.

    ReplyDelete
  159. Thank you for this. I struggle with the amount of, frankly, jerking off of the military this country seems to require. It is not that I don't respect the military, but I feel so often conflicted about why we are being "unpatriotic" if we are not flogging ourselves with the flag. And I have, ironically, used your analogy about the garbage men to other people before - we are far more beholden for our daily safety to our local garbage men, the people who keep our water and energy running, than even to our local police that people seem to realize. And if people think that isn't true, they need only think back to their last power outage that lasted more than 30 minutes.

    But I think this valorization of the military creates another problem - I think it allows us to ignore the damage it does to young men, and it allows us to elide the problems inherent in the VA system and in reintegrating veterans back into civilian society after years on the battlefield. I work at an academic center that is closely associated with one of the largest VAs in the country, and have been closely aligned with biomedical research teams and with clinicians - I have seen first hand the physical and mental toll that war takes on these young men. It is also an area of interest in my own academic study. The idea that we can send young men, with brains not yet fully developed, into war zones, and with impunity to kill - thinking they will NOT come back in some way damaged - has always been deranged.

    I do not believe you are the only veteran who feels this way, and you are certainly not the only American who does. We are, all of us, just never allowed to say it. It is unfair for you to be tokenized in this manner. And it speaks to the many and much larger problems we have as a society. Thank you for your present and critical voice.

    ReplyDelete
  160. As I read your excellent essay, I have been doing some thinking about how this seems oddly familiar, even though I have never served in the military. I realized you were putting into words some of my experiences as a woman in this society. The desire to go out, get your business done, and get on to what you planned to do but someone trying to hold you there by their thanks is a lot like the unwanted attention women get out in public.

    We are told we are supposed to enjoy a compliment. I would prefer a strange man not comment on my appearance. I don't want to feel like I am being looked over. I am not dressing to impress him, I am not trying to pick him up. Saying, "Thanks," for a compliment is treacherous ground--be polite and too many men take it as an invitation to continue conversation when all you really want it to do your business and go on your way. But you have to say thanks so there isn't a bad reaction. I look at the comments criticizing you for your response, and I hear echoes of people telling women, "You should be flattered," when somehow you feel intruded upon.

    I appreciate how you paint a clear picture of how someone uses those thanks (and compliments) as a way to make themselves feel better, not the recipient. Your service was well done, and IS done. You don't owe us that psychic massage. It's the same kind of thing I say to the young women I know--you don't owe someone something for making a comment about/to you.

    Funny how good writing can speak to people in different places. Thanks for the universal truth and wisdom you shared.

    ReplyDelete
  161. Stuffing food down our gullets instead of accurately calling out exploitative BS when we hear it is what polite society and most of the soul-killing family holiday gatherings in this country thrive on, dontcha know.

    You called it, and we needed to hear it.

    ReplyDelete
  162. Thank you for going deep, for not allowing us to over-simplify another person's reality and for bringing intelligence and vulnerability to this subject.

    ReplyDelete
  163. Ugh.

    Every time I run into this it bugs me more and more. Weren't we supposed to be the "rebels" who wanted out from under the jackboot of the standing army, who fought to kick out the redcoats that were the symbols of all this "support the troops" bullshit?

    It's been hard enough to watch the "conservative" faction of our politics be transformed into a bunch of angry, fearful FOX news grandpas. But this whole bizarre tongue-bathing of soldiers..? Why? WTF? How the hell did we get to a place where somehow killing people and breaking shit has become the Ultimate Patriotism?

    ReplyDelete
  164. Hi Jim - Great post. I fully appreciate your consternation at this continued, inane, knee jerk ritual of thanking me for my service. Like saying 'god bless you' after a sneeze, even though god has nothing to do with sneezing. I usually respond "Well, thank you for paying taxes." Sometimes they actually hear what I said and complain that they pay too much in taxes. So I ask whether they enjoy sleeping peacefully and securely at night, enjoy smooth roads (where u can find them), enjoy national parks, appreciate public education, or the Blue Angels or that Army NG helicopter that comes to pluck them off their roof after a natural disaster? And so much more. Nothing comes free, unless you have enough money to not pay taxes at all.

    Anyway. Off topic, but related to your passage on commencing OP Iraqi Freedom (HAHAHAHA, still cracks me up). Looks as if the Chaos Circus is sending up a trial balloon for doing another immensely stupid thing again in the Mid East. Or maybe even a matched set of armed incursions in Iran AND Venezuela. Trump really, really does not want his soiled drawers aired in public. Nothing so noble as pumping OUR oil out of Iraqi ground this time. This time Bolton and Pompeo want to kill brown people to take pressure off the orange imbecile squatting in our Oval Office. Or maybe Pompeo or Pence want to bring about the rapture or some such shit.

    I am unsure that the DoD will go along. They seem to be enjoying record fund raising from the last GOP led Congress and Trump, with little risk of actually using or banging up those expensive $billion weapons systems. And the American public will be difficult to convince a second time that sending US troops into harms way is necessary just because Bolton has a hard on. Besides, Trump is a coward and will probably not actually commit large scale operations against an adversary that has not been successfully invaded since Alexander the Great. Probably.

    In any case I look forward to reading your thoughts on the coming Armageddon to keep some tax records secret and the door open for Russkie intrigue with the next election. If there is one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That didn't take long. A week later and they are partying like its March 2003. We are expected to take the word of Bolton and Pompeo that Iran is the new Iraq. And the KSA claims that sabotage is taking place without any evidence, except a picture of a Norwegian tanker apparently involved in a fender bender. (Pop quiz: What's the difference between hull damage from a contact explosive and a collision? I'll wait.) The cavalcade of bullshit is just washing downstream from DoS and the NSA's office.

      I was working at an IC location in the UK, supporting AF/PK and SWA operations. And as a Marine the question that I was repeatedly asked in March 2003 was "How can Bush (Cheney/Rumsfeld) invade Iraq if there are no apparent WMDs and no connection with Al Qaeda?" Answer - "They had always intended to. And when you pile up 100k troops on the Kuwaiti border, you just don't tell them to come home empty handed."

      So after 9/11 and the initially righteous take down of the Taliban in AF, it all went sideways when Cheney and his Neocon circle jerk thought taking Iraqi oil was going to be a cake walk. Shit, John Bolton isn't even a Neocon in that he doesn't give a fuck about global democracy or freedom - he just believes in war at all cost and American dominance over all. He has had a boner for Teheran for decades, and now finally has the orange imbecile to act on it.

      The post-9/11 craze of non-veterans saying "TYFYS" in lieu of actually providing disabled and troubled combat vets with the care and support they need after 3, 6 or 10 combat deployments, may get a new lease on life. Without US citizens even knowing why dead and wounded service members are starting to arrive home from yet another "worst foreign policy decision in history." With no real policy behind it.

      Delete
  165. I have said it only rarely, it feels forced to me. On the other hand, I regularly thank people who plant beautiful flowers in their front yards for giving me something beautiful to look at. I don’t know, maybe I should thank vets and active service personal that I encounter more often, but they are usually going about their own business I would only be intruding. Maybe. I have to think about this. But you are right about your experiences being private. The feelings and experiences you had are yours, uniquely. No one else heard it, smelled it, felt it, saw it, in precisely the same way as you did. Some things you talk about, some things you just don’t. My dad was Army, 45th Infantry Thunderbird in WW II. He liberated Dachau. You can look up what happened. My dad was a good man. He told many “war” stories. Most of them were funny. His favorite was when a fellow soldier caught a shark in Anzio, I think, and strung it up to a tree branch by the tail, in the middle of the night. Another soldier went to relieve himself, and put his hand on the cold shark, thinking it was a tree trunk. His screaming woke the whole camp. Everyone got yelled at. He told those stories. The funny ones. He never told us about the death, blood, pain, fear. He never told us about Dachau. Those were the things he hid from us. The realities he never shared. They were his alone. Your memories are yours alone. Thanks for the reminder, Jim. You are, as always, a good man trying to do your best.

    ReplyDelete
  166. Long time lurker here. Amusingly enough, I was once a cashier as a hardware store. Now I do graveyard security for the warehouse instead. I was the guy that asked "which branch". I've never once said "thank you for your service" because I always thought it sounded trite. I vote D and think that war is bad, you know? Thanking people for doing a thing I didn't send them to do, and don't think they should have to do, doesn't feel very genuine to me. I'd usually opt for "what was the most interesting thing you saw/did?" and that usually got the older guys talking for hours (and spending more money).

    Course, I wouldn't push the issue if all I got was a grunt :P

    What's the best customer service friendly way to shorten "I'm sorry we as a nation sent you to hell, I didn't vote for the guys that sent you to hell, I wish hell didn't exist, but I'm glad you went to hell so I didn't have to", into a pithy one-liner?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just don't. Not to speak for Jim, but most of us vets, I think, get it. You didn't go, for whatever reason and that's cool. I for one am happy that most people didn't have to go through hell and could pursue their lives. We don't need the thanks, although we appreciate the sentiment.

      As a medic, I did what I did not for my country, or its Citizens, or God...I did it for my buddies. Straight up.

      Delete
  167. My mother is old and slow and walks with a cane. I once responded to a post congratulating those who are considerate enough to hold doors open for others by pointing out how it's not always a good thing. It's not good when somebody sees us coming from across the parking lot and stands there holding the door open until we get there. It's going to take us a while. She sees them standing there letting the heat out or the flies in. It makes her try to hurry. She can't hurry but she tries. This makes it more likely that she will fall. It makes it certain that she will feel bad about being slow. Also, I am obviously with her and obviously capable of opening doors for her whenever it is that we will finally get there. So, a few people replied that they had never thought of that and appreciated my perspective. But, I'll never forget the woman who got angry at me and told me that no matter what, I was not going to make her stop holding doors open. She was offended and angry. I was trying to take away her opportunity to look good. Not her opportunity to BE good, just to look good. Apparently that's more important.

    ReplyDelete
  168. I know just enough to appreciate that I will never understand what veterans have gone through. If they want to share, then shut up and listen otherwise leave them the hell alone. It's their service, their story, not ours.

    ReplyDelete
  169. My son returned from Iraq and expressed frustration at the thx4service comments. I, being a Vietnam era Marine, told him to give my standard reply, "And thank you for paying your taxes so we can have the bullets and benefits". Everytime, they stand there actually thinking about it.

    ReplyDelete
  170. I actually agree with your blog. My husband was in the military for 9 years and a veteran. Even according to him, you know what you are signing up for. It's just a job. Not that he won't take a few bucks off. But he doesn't look like ex-military, so yeah, he doesn't get that whole people thanking him much. I think that it all stemmed from the Vietnam Era where people came back and were ridiculed. The US Government threw out a lot of effort to change that perception and perhaps it's been over done.

    ReplyDelete
  171. Love and peace to you Jim. I appreciate your writing, and would love to see your photographs.

    ReplyDelete

Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.