Old soldiers never die; young ones do. Don’t be a reason!

There are currently about 29,000 non-citizens (with ‘green cards’) serving in the U.S. military. Most serve with pride; many do so with distinction. Unlike far too many born (with citizenship) in the United States, they are willing to risk their lives, if necessary, for what this country and being a part of it means and represents to them.

I just heard on the radio that the U.S. military is now actively seeking and allowing non-citizen doctors, nurses, and linguists (without green cards) to serve in our Armed Forces. This says three things to me. First, there must not be enough Americans willing to fill the (growing?) need. Second, like ‘outsourcing’ in other ‘industries’, there is a belief that there are (more than?) enough interested, loyal, and qualified non-citizens (seeking U.S. citizenship?) willing to do the job (for us). Third, accepted doctors and nurses would be commissioned as officers and thus ‘enjoy’ higher status and privileges than most enlisted citizens serving. Education and skills (otherwise lacking?) are obviously valued more than where someone is born.

Regardless of citizenship status, there is an opportunity to use any influx of U.S. military personnel with medical training and those who speak other languages for more than just treating casualties, interrogating prisoners, or translating from one language to another.

Sometimes I feel odd writing anything about the military today – since I have been out for so long and so many things have changed since my times of service as an active duty U.S. Marine (Cryptologic Linguist) and Special Operations Medic (in the U.S. Army Reserve). Yet some things apparently do not change. Once a Marine, always a Marine? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s simply I perceive a lot needing to be said/written (that is either not, or not enough, elsewhere).

As a child of an immigrant, I enlisted in the Marine Corps in order to “serve” the country that I had the privilege of growing up in. The thing that later really attracted me to the Army’s Special Forces (Green Berets) was not their distinctive headgear, but the opportunity and expectation to be a “teacher”, “healer”, “adviser”, and “role model” (on a global level). That may surprise those who don’t understand the real purpose and mission(s) of our military. Much of what our Armed Forces do (to keep us and others safe and secure) has nothing to do with guns, bombs, tanks, battleships, or other instruments of death and destruction.

There are many ways to protect our “national interests”, ensure our “national security”, and do what is “right” and/or “needed” for others around the globe. Sometimes we really must “close with and destroy the enemy” – so that we (and/or those we seek to protect) can survive. More often than not, alternative responses and types of “intervention” are much more effective. Perhaps the most “unconventional” warfare of all is to make your enemy your friend and ally. “Hearts and minds” are more often “won” not by force or (manipulative) “Psychological Operations”, but by providing education, medical care, “modern” infrastructure, “basic” services, economic support, “self-sufficiency” training, and most of all, exposure to (and experience of) Americans (in uniform) as a force of good (to support and emulate), rather than as an “enemy” (to fear, resist, or attack).

According to the news, the U.S. now plans to withdraw all military personnel out of Iraq within 3 years. Even if so, we will still maintain a presence in about 130 other countries. Most of them actually want us there. Afghanistan may or may not be one of them. Either way, we are not likely to leave soon. Books are often more powerful and effective than bullets or bombs, and the U.S. military is one of the reasons that many there can now go to school at all. In times of disaster, the appearance of U.S. Navy hospital ships and/or CB (“SeaBee”) construction battalions, U.S. Army and Coast Guard helicopters, U.S. Air Force cargo planes, U.S. Marine “peacekeepers”, and MANY other forms of U.S. uniformed military help are usually welcomed and appreciated by people and places that claim to hate us as much by those who love us.

I find it sad that the reputation, regard, and respect for both our military and many of our government leaders/policies are (often far) “greater” in other countries than here in the U.S. I think this is mainly because, for some reason, those at “home” often do not really know what “we” do for so many others around the world that IS positive and appreciated.

There are at least three reasons for this. First, our news media and school systems either don’t know, don’t care, or just don’t tell us. Second, and “worse”, most Americans do not have any direct, personal connection to our military (or the concept of “service” at all). With less than 10% of the population ever serving at all, let being in “harms way”, our military and what it does can easily be perceived as not really important, necessary, or “newsworthy” except when something bad happens. What matters most is often what never makes the news. Finally, many who do know are too often unwilling, unable, or not allowed to talk (to those who don’t). Even if more did, how many Americans are really INTERESTED in listening (or would understand)?

It is now “politically correct” to briefly express some token appreciation for those who serve(d) in our Armed Forces, but overall, our military is not held in very high regard by many for whom they serve, protect, and may risk their lives. The concept of service (of any kind) is often touted as desirable, but not nearly as much the idea of as personal gain.

The problems of perception and what we value in this country have little to do with Iraq, Afghanistan, or who the President is. I find the amount of disrespect, disassociation, and disillusionment toward almost everything in this country, especially by those that live here, appalling, offensive, and in need of attention/correction. President-elect Obama claims that promoting “service” is one of his goals. We shall see. I hope he is successful.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, a hawk nor a dove, bullish nor bearish, overly optimistic nor pessimistic, and am certainly not an apologist for anyone or anything. I’m not even sure I’m even really a “patriot”. I can probably find/tell you more “problems” and/or what is “wrong” and/or “in need of improvement” than most people (I have met). There are many things I don’t like and/or disagree with. I am FAR from perfect and have a lot of trouble consistently walking my own talk, but I think it very important to look for and increase our awareness and appreciation of what is good, working, and positive – and to do what we can to create it where it is lacking. I’m not sure why it is so pervasive, but please keep your “sarcasm” to yourself!

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me (about anything), but I do encourage others to take more responsibility and be more accountable for their words and actions – and how they affect and influence others. If you are not part of the “solution”, you are probably part of the “problem”. At the very least, be FOR something, rather than AGAINST (so many) things, including how and where our Armed Forces are used. Finally, don’t just talk about what you think is important, do something about it (personally). You don’t even need citizenship to do that. What are you waiting for? The world is waiting for you. Give, give, give! That’s what you are here for: to SERVE (others more than yourself).

© 2008 – 2012, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

Oren Pardes

Oren Pardes has written 73 post in this blog.


2 responses to Old soldiers never die; young ones do. Don’t be a reason!

  1. Steve Nicholas

    Great post, Oren! As a fellow veteran (WV Army National Guard, 2000-06, activated in Iraq War, 2003-04) I agree with you about the way that it is the politically correct thing to thank a soldier, but how many are willing to send a care package, or write their members of Congress to fight for greater pay and benefits so we’re taken care of when we get home. Supporting our servicemen and -women is more than a bumper sticker.
    Steve Nicholas recently posted ..Rex Ryan and the Big PictureMy Profile

  2. Oren Pardes

    Thanks for both your comment and your (military) service, Steve. Both are greatly appreciated.

    There are many ways to “serve” besides in the military, just as there are many ways to serve in it. How people serve is in many ways less important than that they do – and that doing so is not taken for granted. Yet it often seems like “lip service” is all that many people are willing to give – especially regarding what they receive and benefit from (both directly and indirectly).

    (Military) Service is often selfless and may involve sacrifice and/or paying whatever price is necessary.
    Unlike (other) “Federal employees” or police, fire, medical, education, and sanitation (to name only a few public) services, those serving in “our” Armed Forces (and their families) are very often expected to do more with less than civilians realize (without “striking”, “picketing”, or “collective bargaining” for pay, benefits, time off, or how they are treated (both during and after their military service) by the society they come from and (hope to) return to.

    There is a lot of talk today about the 1% versus the 99%. What most Americans may not realize is that LESS than 1% of the U.S. population is serving on active military duty – very often in “harm’s way” – and that only slightly more than 10% of Americans alive today have ever served in the military at all.

    People working for many (government) agencies, organizations, and departments wear some kind of uniform, but the United States officially has (only) 7 “Uniformed Services”. Many Americans seem to be uninformed about (and even take for granted) the many uniformed men and women who serve them (and others around the world) – in so many ways.

    Veterans Day is an appropriate time (for Americans) to acknowledge and appreciate that “freedom” has a cost – and thank (all) those who serve(d) in “our” military. But it should not be the only time to do so.

    Along with “rights” come “responsibilities”. Those who “protect and defend” our “national interests”, our “liberty”, and those (here and elsewhere) who either can’t or won’t do so themselves, deserve our respect, gratitude, and support – both in and out of uniform.

    Whether or not anyone is really a “hero” and what is or is not “above and beyond” the “call of duty” is debatable, but service and sacrifice themselves are worthy of recognition – as are those (we expect) to do so on “our” behalf. Our “all-volunteer” military is not simply a mercenary force serving corporations (and foreign financiers) or an international imperial “occupier” seeking to impose anything on anyone. The flag often worn on their uniforms may seem to being facing the wrong direction, but most of what is done (at home and abroad, during times of war and peace alike) by those who serve in our Armed Forces is “exemplary”, admirable, and all too often unnoticed. Our true “national debt” is not financial, but human. It cannot be paid back – only forward. Our future as both individuals and a nation in many ways depends upon how “we” regard and respond to those who serve(d) “us” – especially “in uniform”.

    Every military veteran has a story. Although their individual experiences and emphasis may vary, and what they share may or may not “shock and awe”, surprise and please, or enlighten and inspire, anyone willing to listen will soon learn that all who “serve(d)” [their country] are (now) “different” as a result. The “action” that matters most to veterans is when those around them make it clear that their “service” and whatever they did made a difference (that is valued).

    Your years of service, your posting a comment, and your supporting others (with more than just words) all make a difference. Please accept my sincerest thanks.
    Oren Pardes recently posted ..Change You Can Believe In?My Profile

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