Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I'm not crazy about this photo, I was basically still a kid and having my first official photo in my dress uniform (which I didn't like, much prefer the photo booth shot below of me at the end of basic training with my friend Murph, sans that ugly hat ) at the beginning of my four years in the military (slightly more, actually, to make up for "bad time").

I often say I'm from "a family of cops," because when I was a boy the last older brother at home was a cop, and when he moved out it was to marry the oldest daughter of a cop, and my oldest sister moved out when she married a cop, and one of my cousins next door became a cop, and our Irish immigrant grandfather down the street was a retired cop....etc.

I would never say I came from "a military family"...but...just thinking about Veterans Day this morning, I thought, well me and my three brothers, that lived beyond childhood, not only all served in the military but in every branch, my two oldest during WWII—the oldest in the Army Air Corps (before there was an Air Force) and the second oldest in the Navy (he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery when he passed a few decades ago)—the third in the Army and me in the Air Force, all "enlisted men"—which means we weren't officers just regular troops.

And a lot of other males in my extended clan served in the military, including some who served a lot longer than four years and some who made a lifetime of it (one Godson/nephew served as an MP and married a female veteran and later he became a policeman and is now a detective). So, I guess it's all a matter of perspective. The difference between the clan members who were in the service more recently and when I and my older brothers were in, was the draft. Maybe some of us joined, but some were drafted, and all were impacted by the reality that ours was a citizens' army, with every stratum of society represented.

Not true once we went all voluntary, and even less true now that a lot of the work that used to be done by troops is done by private contractors. I' d like to see a system like Israel has, or even better, like the Kurds (or at least one faction of the Kurds) where all citizens serve in the military, including women (although for Israel the fundamentalist hardliners get to opt out and then use their political influence to push for more belligerent policies) and for at least one Kurdish group, there is a communal philosophy where all are equal etc.

I'm not crazy when people make a big deal out of some family being a "military family" or act as if every person in the military is somehow more heroic or making a bigger sacrifice than anyone else (I'd say those volunteering to work with Ebola patients in Africa are making a bigger sacrifice than many in the military ever do). Though obviously those who served in combat should be taken care of for that sacrifice. I didn't see any combat, so I think of my service time more as an impediment to the life I actually wanted to be living at the time than any great sacrifice. But I am grateful it did pay for much of my higher education on The G.I.Bill.

Let's push for a citizens' army again, with everyone having to take their turn to not only "defend their country" but to see how the military works and to have a say in when and how it should be used. Happy Veterans Day.


William McPherson said...

Yes, a citizens' army—and then maybe the wars we've been engaged in recently would never have been fought. But on more sober reflection, I'm not so sure. People can be persuaded of the legitimacy of anything, the presence of WMDs in Iraq, for example. But with a citizens' army, at least the cost would be borne more equally.

Lally said...

Good point Bill.