Much to the surprise of those stereotyping me as a nattering nabob of negativism about apple pie, “love it or leave it” Americans, and Hank Jr. as patriotic role model, I am a military veteran.
After six months of training in Pensacola, Fla., in Naval communications — including so much Morse Code I dreamed dots and dashes — I became a top-secret electronic spy on Guam.
I did my job competently, but my most heroic acts were interdicting weed from Thailand before it could corrupt future patriots on stateside shores. Poor souls I saved ranged from hippies to rednecks making lame jokes about the guys being girls.
With such bona fides, I have earned some capital to discuss reasons for military service.
I applaud civilians who honor military members’ sacrifices — including the ultimate one. Paying for their meals, thanking them in airports, free admission to events, etc., are well-deserved tributes.
Some soldiers are true heroes who commit incredible acts of bravery.
Let’s also be realistic about the reasons many young people join the service.
When I joined the Navy, patriotism was not on my radar. Needing a paycheck and trying to figure out life were high on my priority list.
No doubt, many of today’s recruits are in the same leaky boat.
They may want to learn a job skill, or escape from drugs or a bad personal situation.
They may be lonely, or want to travel.
They may want to impress their parents or significant other. They may need health and housing benefits for their family.
None are bad reasons, but do not inherently make them more pedestal-worthy than those who choose different paths to their dreams.
True patriots, from all walks, want to make the country better. Only jingoists — who often have never served — equate body counts with patriotism.
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