OK, well, there's a group on Facebook called "Thank A Soldier". It seems to be run by some nice, well, meaning people (from Canada, interestingly enough) who genuinely want to say nice things to squaddies.
A "friend" of mine on Facebook just joined this group, and, like everything you do on Facebook, a little note popped up on my page: "So-and-so just joined the group "Thank A Soldier".
I thought that was very nice of her, because I'm not sure what soldiers have done for her or hers lately, but every time I see that little pop-up I end up wandering over to that page and I read the first line of their blurb:
"We Believe in thanking soldiers for our freedoms we enjoy"
And every time I get a pain in the giggy. And every time I post a comment to Facebook that goes something like this:
"I served 22 years in the U.S. Army. I cannot in all honesty think of anything I did anywhere to anyone that contributed materially to the freedom anyone in the U.S. enjoys today or did at the time. I certainly served U.S. "interests", helped further U.S. geopolitical aims and did some things that helped people in other countries.I never get any comments or discussion back. It's like a black hole; things go in but don't come back out. I get that feeling that when I talk about soldiers and soldiering - outside a handful of people, many of whom comment on this blog and you know who you are, hat-tip to all o' ya - the nice people who've never really had much to do with us GIs (which, these days, is most people) look at me like Barfus the Dog-Headed Boy.
Every time you voted, Kelli, you did more for "freedom" than I did in 22 years of armed service. Every time you wrote your congresscritter you did more. Every time you protested, wrote a letter to the editor, signed an initiative petition. YOU were the mover and doer. Not I.
I love soldiers. I loved being a soldier. But what I did had very little to do with "freedom" or "justice" or "proclaiming liberty throughout the land."
Hey, look. The guys in VIIth Corps who sat in the Fulda Gap from 1945 to 1991 helped defend freedom against the Soviets. The guys who sat in the boomers under the Arctic Ocean, in the silos in Minnesota and Tucson, who cycled out of Minot and Elmendorf. THOSE guys, you can throw a snappy salute to and buy 'em a drink. They kept you from being Red and/or dead.
Me? The guys in Saudi and Iraq and Panama and Grenada and Kuwait and Kosovo?
Not so much.
It's not that I don't want gratitude. It just seems to me like we use it, this automatic, casual "We support our troops" yellow-ribbon bumperstickerish reflex instead of really thinking about soldiers, who we are and what we do and why, and the implications of how we use our soldiers now that they're mostly "them" and not so much "us".