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How I Let Go Of The Embarrassment I Felt For Having Never Served In Combat
A few months ago, I read Phil Klay’s book, “Redeployment” — a collection of a dozen short stories. One of its unifying themes was that young people, and young men in particular, seek validation through combat. There are myriad consequences to facing combat — some good, and others bad. Others who never face combat, but expected to, are often left with intermingled senses of regret and embarrassment. There’s a selfishness in the sentiment: service is about “We.” Validation, potential regret, and its attendant embarrassment are about “Me.”
From 2006–2010, I was a Marine infantry officer. I commanded platoons on three deployments. Most of my contemporaries — that is, Marine infantry officers serving in the late aughts — have been in combat. I’ve never been shot at, blown up, or been in contact with the enemy in any sense whatsoever. I am a veteran, but I am not a combat veteran.
Accepting this took some time: it went from a lived reality, to a source of shame, to something I merely acknowledge today as a fact of my life. This simple reckoning has allowed me to recollect my service with straightforwardness, and grow as a person.
While I was still in, other Marines knew the battalion I was in, and they’d know I’d been in Iraq when it was calm, then went on a MEU, then went to Haiti. I’ve seen a lot written about the pressure to get a Combat Action Ribbon — the unofficial sign that you’d really done something while you were deployed. And while I always revered my Marines and senior leaders who had one — perhaps too much so for a time — when I was around other Marines, it didn’t matter too much that I never had one. If new Marines who joined my platoons were skeptical of my leadership because I’d never been in combat, I never felt it, and like to think I eventually gained their trust through competence.
I felt embarrassment most sharply after I’d gotten out. People expected that I’d been in combat, and I thought I would have been, too. I never lied about it, but as a brand new civilian, I’m not proud to admit that I did offer ambiguous responses to questions like “What did you do?” I’d respond with: “I was a Marine, an infantry officer. I was in Iraq.” I’d just let it linger as though I was a salty vet who just stayed mum about the experience because there were some things I just didn’t want to talk about. I’d let people keep their assumptions about what my response meant, as though I might be less of a person if they knew the truth. At a certain point, I flipped entirely. Just about any time I talked about my experience as a Marine, I almost reflexively said — and, sometimes still do say — “Yeah, but I never really did anything. I was never in combat.”
I don’t know what I’m supposed to say when people ask me what I did or where I served. I’ve just settled on being comfortable with some facts about what I did and who I am. I was not in a unit that got shot at. Many others in my line of work were, but I wasn’t. I like to think I would have handled it just as well as all of my buddies, but I actually have no idea.
I got out after four years while the war in Iraq was winding down, and Afghanistan was getting messier. I could have stayed in and sought a unit deploying to Afghanistan, and it’s likely that I would have seen combat. But, I didn’t. So, there’s some arbitrariness, and a little bit of personal choice — even if it was a choice of omission — in the fact that I’m not a combat veteran.
Most importantly, any sense of regret I have for not getting shot at is laden with a deep, perhaps sinful, moral failing. I did three deployments, and there were around 120 Marines in the two platoons I led, none of whom were ever hurt or killed. Given the time I served, and the job I had, that’s nothing but a blessing. If I’d been in combat on any of my deployments, I probably would have been fine — while many officers have been hurt and killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the brunt of that burden sits with enlisted men. And so, the self-validation I might have gained in combat would have likely come at the cost of my Marines. Shame on me for ever feeling embarrassed.
All that’s proper is to shut up and count my blessings. I’m exceedingly proud that I served. I look back, and though I did nothing heroic, I smile widely, knowing that I loved my Marines deeply. I feel comfortable that my service honored a sacred covenant with them, even if that bond was never faced with nor forged in the ultimate crucible. I’ll never know what sort of growth combat may have led to, but I’m okay with who I am today.
I matured, as I learned practical lessons from dozens of Marines, hundreds of mistakes, and a few major failures. I became a man of deeper integrity, if only from the fortunate contagion of befriending several people of the highest character; and having had a job in my early 20s where living one’s values is the clearest path to success. Because I served, I’m a more complete husband, friend, brother, son, and citizen; and I know I’ll love and guide the child we expect in July more wholly.
Army study recommends more sleep for recruits at basic, which drill sergeants will absolutely not disregard or anything
(Reuters Health) - Soldiers who experience sleep problems during basic combat training may be more likely to struggle with psychological distress, attention difficulties, and anger issues during their entry into the military, a recent study suggests.
"These results show that it would probably be useful to check in with new soldiers over time because sleep problems can be a signal that a soldier is encountering difficulties," said Amanda Adrian, lead author of the study and a research psychologist at the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.
"Addressing sleep problems early on should help set soldiers up for success as they transition into their next unit of assignment," she said by email.
Thousands of U.S. service members who've been sent to operate along the Mexico border will receive a military award reserved for troops who "encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action."
The Pentagon has authorized troops who have deployed to the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since last April to receive the Armed Forces Service Medal. Details about the decision were included in a Marine Corps administrative message in response to authorization from the Defense Department.
There is no end date for the award since the operation remains ongoing.
A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.
Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.
It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.
It all began with a medical check.
Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.
It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.
Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.
The US military now has to ask the Iraqis for permission before giving close air support to troops in combat
U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.
However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.