A few years ago it became a thing to thank people in the military for their service. While we in the military can understand and appreciate the sentiment behind this, most of us would rather not hear it, and I will try to explain why. Obviously since there are over a million people currently on active duty and countless others who have retired or are on reserve status, I can’t speak for everyone in the military, and know I am painting over this subject with a very broad brush here, but hear me out…
Soldiers are idealists who believe in the power of discipline, willpower, and commitment. These are things most people know very little about. When we raised our hand and swore an oath to our country, we had the childish optimism to believe we would be the generation to turn things around and finally bring peace to the world. We joined in the hoped that we would end wars and make the military obsolete. It’s always been like this for soldiers. When the thousands lined up at recruiting stations after Pearl Harbor and again after 9/11, they did so with the belief that they would either prevent these horrors from happening or die trying.
There are things we experience as soldiers that we will never be able to make you understand, and frankly, you don’t want to know. They are things we would rather not know, but we don’t get that luxury. Soldiers are often given impossible tasks, against insurmountable odds, with outdated or no equipment, and the only thing we’re supposed to be concerned with is getting rounds on the target, or making sure we don’t break the Rules of Engagement. We are ordered by idiot politicians who fight wars as a way to make money, and have no idea how to fight wars to end a conflict. We also are the ones who see up close and personal that the majority of people killed in urban combat, are innocent civilians, often times the very people we are there to protect.
Sometimes, in the darkest hours, we might even wonder if America are the good guys anymore.
We can’t explain to you why the sound of a balloon popping, or the smell of diesel fuel, or even the taste of a stale potato chip can send us to dark places we do not wish to go to, and we all know at least one person we served with who has either committed suicide or who is suffering from severe mental anguish over this.
So when you thank us for our service, it’s not that we don’t appreciate the gesture, it’s that most of us feel that we have failed you in that service. The world is not a safer place. We take that very personally and place more blame on ourselves than you will ever understand. We wish we had been able to serve you in a greater capacity. We wish we had been able to do those things we hoped for when we joined.
We are sorry the world is not at peace.