Before I start, I am in no way advocating that those who served in the military in peacetime deserve the same reverence as those who actually saw combat and put themselves in harm’s way for their country. The men and women who actually risked their lives deserve all the honour coming to them. In fact, I can safely say that no country in the world honours their wartime military better than the USA. Unfortunately, and I’m speaking from my own experiences, America tends to go the opposite way in regards to its peacetime military. Servicemen and women during times of peace are treated with indifference and even disdain.
I served in the US Marines from 1979-83 and during those four years I only had one old man thank me for serving. In the eyes of most of the country, I was scum, a criminal, a druggie and in some peoples’ opinions, no better than a welfare cheat. These people claimed that I went into the service so I wouldn’t have to try to get a ‘real job.’ Rednecks, who these days proudly display “Support Our Troops” on their t-shirts and bumper stickers weren’t supportive of us in peacetime. While my experience was mild, I’ve heard stories of other servicemen during the time I served suffering worse experiences from rednecks. Even the elite Marine Corps which I served in, they referred to us as ‘boy scouts.’ Further proof was in 1981, the only Thanksgiving I managed to get home for, I went to my former high school’s Thanksgiving Day football game in my dress blues. I was expecting a few strange looks but not as many as I did get. Likewise with the mock salutes. But in the eyes of many patrons of the game, I must have some sort of issue because I was wearing my best uniform to just a football game. I wonder if I would encounter the same thing if I was serving today.
Recently, on the Quora website, I asked why America treats its peacetime military the way it does. The answers I got were food for thought. Historically, Americans have always been a little wary of a large peacetime military. Even America’s first president, George Washington (and second best president overall), warned against large standing armies. Service persons remind people of the fact that we have a military in peacetime. A small few don’t see the need for one. Therefore, they take it out on those they see who are serving their country. While I see their point of view, what I ask is: Is it necessary to treat individuals who are willing to give up a few years of their life to their country with such indifference or disdain? Is it right?
Over the last decade, I have had people actually thanking me for my service and I’ll say it again, I am truly grateful for your offers of thanks. I thank you for thanking me! On the other hand, it shouldn’t have taken three decades and two wars in the Middle East for this to happen. It would have been nice to have been acknowledged for my service when I was actually serving. If people had, I wouldn’t have been so bitter for so long.
By all means, thank and congratulate those who went to war for their country. Give them their just due and more and shed plenty of tears for those who paid the ultimate price. They deserve it even more. But when the wars are over and our service personnel aren’t getting shot at, give them some respect for being willing to put themselves in harms way should the time ever arise again. Peacetime service people deserve a bit of respect too.
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