As a 1-AO conscientious objector, Collegedale, Illinois resident William Twombly served his country alongside caged guinea pigs in the Utah desert, where he and a dozen fellow non-combatant soldiers — with their own complement of guinea pigs — were exposed to Q fever as part of the U.S. Army's Operation Whitecoat.

Drafted in December 1954 and discharged in December of 1956, the then-21-year-old Twombly was among more than 2,300 conscientious objectors who participated in Operation Whitecoat between 1954 and 1973, many of them Seventh-day Adventists like Twombly.

His objections stemmed from his religious beliefs, but duty to his country mattered, too.

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Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers board an aircraft to begin the first leg of their deployment in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. (Georgia National Guard/Maj. William Carraway)

As veterans, it's easy to believe all the popular hype that the military is filled with heroes. From football games to the movies, military members are lionized, not on an individual basis, but on a collective one. The average citizen would be hard pressed to name one Medal of Honor recipient, but would probably say without hesitation that all the troops are heroes.

Whether a day out of boot camp or a 30-year combat vet, everyone who's worn a uniform is a modern-day Captain America. That's great, and perhaps a welcome change from how people viewed the military after Vietnam.

Unfortunately, too many vets believe their own PR, and subscribe to what I'd call the “veteran superiority complex."

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No matter how much time you spend in the U.S. armed forces, the impulse to serve never fully goes away. Service members often find new ways to serve their communities after they separate, from volunteer work to running for office, but many embody the spirit of service when the most extreme circumstances call them to action. Often, those who answer the call aren’t just good Samaritans — they’re total badasses who run toward danger and never look back.

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U.S Marine Corps/Cpl. Tayler P. Schwamb

Say you’re at a dinner party. Sitting next to you is a petrochemical engineer. When you ask what she does for her day-to-day job, she overwhelms you with names of substances you haven’t heard since high school chemistry, uses cryptic acronyms, and drones on and on. After about a minute, you’ve tuned her out and you’re thinking about dessert.

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U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Ruth Wheeley

So the time has come where your disillusionment for continued military service trumps your misguided teenage visions of honor, conquest, and becoming the next Maverick. The idea of standing watch on the U.S -Mexican border or engaging in Byzantine nation building offers no appeal. You’ve made up your mind. It’s time to get out. 

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Patrick H. Owens

Before newly minted Marines even reach the fleet, they spend months being inundated with knowledge and transformed from soft civilians to napalm-pissing, high-and-tight-rocking warfighters, ready to shove their combat boot up the ass of America’s enemies. (At least, that’s how they see themselves on leave. Everyone else just sees a dumb boot.)

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