Heroes or Idiots?
This morning I posted a video on Facebook that received mixed reviews.
It’s a fairly crude, mocking representation of soldiers doing what some soldiers do to blow off steam in a hot, barren area surrounded by other young people with huge guns and too much time on their hands, fueled by anxiety and Red Bull.
It made me remember back to when I thought to enlist in the military myself, but my dad, a WWII veteran, discouraged me from doing so. Though he was vague about his reasons as they applied to me, he just said that it might be an uncomfortable situation. Dad told many stories over the years about the heroes he’d served with who had sacrificed life an limb for their fellow countrymen. The image he created made me want to be one of those people.
But there is a reality most soldiers don’t talk about that is probably more accurate than the image of the strong, stoic Marine we see in recruiting advertisements. Maybe this is the stuff Dad was talking about.
When thousands of young people, mostly men, are thrown together thousands of miles from home, often with nothing to do and nowhere to go, a certain amount of “idiocy” is bound to occur. These are kids who just a year or two earlier were doing what teenagers do — hanging out with their buddies, driving fast, testing limits — so the fact that they are wearing uniforms and carrying ridiculously powerful weapons around does not mean that they have instantly gained maturity.
I have to wonder if the reason so many soldiers don’t talk about their experiences when they come home has to do not so much with the horrors of battle they’ve seen, but maybe with the struggle to grow up they’ve observed in the face of incredible pressure, realizing that many of them are still just teenaged boys inside. A good many of them have likely been pushed to participate in activities they knew were not acceptable, yet the camaraderie of being part of a group caused them to make decisions they might not otherwise have had to consider.
This year, the suicide rate among soldiers is averaging one per day. Serving one’s country in the military, once considered a rite of passage and an honor, is causing many to collapse. The pressure of fighting a 10-year war that’s continued purpose is questionable, and coming home to an economy that is having trouble supporting their return is making re-entry into society too difficult for some.
I have no idea what the answer is. I don’t know what should be considered acceptable behavior in the military so that our kids don’t lose their marbles. More discipline? Less?
All I know is that in an age where videos of every kind of behavior imaginable are available at our fingertips, I have to just SMH (shake my head) and RME (roll my eyes) at some of what I see and be grateful that the creative mind is still alive, regardless of my judgement about the art-worthiness of its output.
I guess, for me, it’s the heroism of the “idiots” who remind those around them that though the situation is deadly serious, moments of ridiculousness do as much to keep them all alive as the automatic weapons they are carrying.