Editor’s Note: This article is part of a new Task & Purpose column called “Swamp Warfare,” in which thought leaders examine the growing intersection of military, politics, and policy in the United States.
Getting out of the military can be a challenging time, especially for those who only served one enlistment and are heading to college. In my case, I dropped out of school in 2008 and enlisted, then in 2012 left the Marines and returned to college, except this time I had a new identifier permanently affixed to myself. I was now a veteran, but I had no idea how that one little detail was going to impact and alter how I behaved. I felt like I was equipped with a wealth of experience far beyond my peers. I’d gone to war, done some stuff, and now I was going to show these civilians just how easy they had it. Post-military life would be a cinch and I’d be making mad bank in no time.
On May 28, Harambe, a lowland silverback gorilla, was killed by a sniper to save a small boy who had fallen into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe’s final moments were captured in a video that immediately went viral. He was 17 years old.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom
For nearly 150 years, Memorial Day has been a day in which we honor and remember our fallen loved ones, friends, and heroes who died defending our freedoms. At its core, Memorial Day is a somber time — one in which we reflect on the ultimate sacrifices our military men and women have made for our country. Occasionally, however, many forget why we remember on Memorial Day, and see the occasion merely as chance to get brand recognition or to hold a sale — which falls woefully short of its true purpose.
Few civilians can get away with talking about the military the way Sebastian Junger does. Among mainstream journalists, his commentary on the experience of being an American soldier in the post-9/11 world is unparalleled in its depth and honesty. Over the years, he’s amassed a body of award-winning work — articles, books, films — that challenges popular assumptions about what it means to serve, and the psychological impact that service has on those who do. That’s a remarkable achievement for someone who’s never worn the uniform.