I went from this


To this

Carrying on from last week’s post about honouring all veterans, my thoughts went back to my life after I left the Marines in 1983. While I stated that when I was in the service, I was treated with indifference and even disdain, that carried on even more after I left the service, especially when I started acting more and more un-military. My most grievous crime was daring to think that after four years of having (no choice) to wear a crew cut in the service of my country, that is was okay for me to grown my hair long.

It seemed in my mind that many of those who went to my college, (I should point out that community colleges in America are little more than glorified high schools), knew that I had been in the marines, either didn’t link it with my desire to grow my hair or didn’t want to or just didn’t think it was a good enough reason for me to do so. As a result, I was treated as a ‘freak’ and an outcast for my supposed heinous crime.

Community college wasn’t the only place I experienced problems with intolerance of my hair style. I remember going for a job interview and in spite of my experience, the yuppie (it was the mid 1980s) who interviewed me said he shouldn’t hire me on account of my hair style. This yuppie pretended to understand saying that when he was in college that he had longer hair than me. I told him that I bet that some of that time he was in college with his long hair, was during the four years where I was forced to wear a crew cut defending his right to wear it. He responded that I didn’t have to justify it. Then there was what I call the Reagan Youth. Teenagers who didn’t want to know my story and only saw the hair, which to them wasn’t cool in intolerant 80s Reagan America. I got some crap off them as well.

On the subject of employment, while I had little trouble finding employment after leaving the service, there were some potential employers who didn’t look on my service they way they should. To a couple of these persons, being in the service wasn’t a proper job and therefore I was four years without one. So much for the US military’s claim that it gives young people much needed work experience. It does but not all employers at the time recognized it as such.

These, along with other factors like my college refusing to give veterans course credit for Physical Education, led me to question whether or not serving my country was actually worth it. Furthermore, I began to grow more resentful towards America. I concluded that I had given my country the four best years of my life and was ready to die for it if need be, but all my country gave me in return was grief. People’s reaction that I didn’t have it as bad as the Vietnam Veterans had it and I should just shut up wasn’t the right answer. See, by the mid 1980s, America was finally waking up and showing remorse to the harm they did those men and women who served in Vietnam. But that’s another story.

Where am I going with all this? My Asperger’s mind is asking the same question while I type this. I could never figure out why people who knew I was in the service couldn’t see why I would want to grow my hair long when I got out. In the end, I put it down to ignorance and intolerance. My point is that when someone serves in the military, they should be accorded the thanks from their country for being willing to give up three or four years of their lives to serve. Even more so if they are sent somewhere they get shot at. Furthermore, if they seem a little eccentric when they return to civilian life, it should remember that these people were in a very stressful setting. Like me, these people might have only served for four years but they are veterans for life and should be afforded the respect due them.

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