Military service: Heroes and Leaders

United States
July 25, 2022 12:58am CST
I have tried for the last several hours to write this discussion. I have started at least a half-dozen times, only to delete everything, because of the strong emotions attached to it. I am struggling with an understanding that all have a right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and losing respect for someone for how they exercise(d) that First Amendment freedom. Growing up and joining the military I grew up as the eldest child in a very dysfunctional, abusive family. Of course, I caught much of the lion's share of that. I was 18 years of age by less than two weeks the day I raised my right hand and took an oath to this country and all that I had been taught that it represented. Truth be told, it was also to get away from the hatefulness and craziness of this family. Yet, we were taught the value of patriotic service to country. We were taught to respect what this country stood for, to fly the flag with honor and pride. I believed in what so many people said they believed in--equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and more--and was willing, if needed, to go to war in uniform to defend those rights for all who were promised them, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, etc. I followed in the footsteps of several of my uncles and other World War II veterans and believed in all that was good about the United States and democracy. I knew the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Being a veteran I have always held my fellow veterans in high regard. You see, each and every one of us, who have served, did so knowing what could be asked of us. And, in my experience, most of my "sisters and brothers in uniform" have a sense of humility for having served. When others tell us, "Thank you for your service," we do not puff up with prideful arrogance. Instead, we respond, "No thanks needed. It was my honor to serve." Most of us do not feel entitled to using our veteran status as a way to elevate ourselves to loftiness. We understand the sacrifices that those who sign up to serve make. We also have a selfless understanding of what a veteran's family faces, when their loved ones make those sacrifices, especially in a time of war. Of course, veterans are also human. Not all are humble, gracious, caring, courageous, or kind. They can be inconsiderate, arrogant, callous, spiteful, or cruel. I have always believed that veterans have a responsibility to be leaders. "So goes the leader, so goes the pack." This does not mean they do this by pontificating, as talk is cheap. I was taught in the military to lead by setting an example of humility, graciousness, courage, and kindness, and understanding that it's important to value the people on your team, despite whether or not you like them or shared their beliefs. As much as we think we know others, and we may even tell others what we think they are, unless someone shares their deepest thoughts, and experiences, we don't know them. The more someone emotionally pummels another, the steelier that person may become, reluctant to share who they are, and what their experiences have taught them. Pointed accusations and judgement do nothing to serve anyone well. More Military Service in the Family I am proud to say that two of my nephews, brothers born three years apart, are Army veterans. Each of them enlisted right out of high school, leaving for basic training before their 18th birthdays. Both soldiers served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These two men, Michael and Bryan, are heroes, as so many other men and woman like them that I have known have been. Michael served for 18 months in a war zone. He retired with nearly 19 years in service. Bryan deployed in these countries totaling 44 months in zone, and served 13 1/2 years active duty and is still in the active reserves today. Each soldier reached the rank of Sergeant First Class, have held numerous leadership positions, and are highly decorated veterans, and each have seen the physical and emotional wounds of war. Bryan, the younger of the two, was awarded the Sergeant Audie Murphy Award, a prestigious award reserved for a very select few non-commissioned officers who "exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of soldiers and concern for families of soldiers." Those important words, "concern for families of soldiers," are as important to any others, when it comes to leadership, and heart. Yes, I said, "HEART." Though a soldier takes on the responsibility of so much, when they choose to serve this country, as my nephews did, so did the family of these warriors. No one understands this as well as their mother (my sister, @SonjaRae). Every time there was a deployment, a mission, an attack, news of casualties, and more, a mother's heart sank, awaiting news that her sons were okay. Never was there a day that Sonja, or any other number of family members or friends, was anything other than wholly proud of her sons or the thousands of other men and women who were serving. We all flew our flags with pride, and love for this country, and the veterans who have kept her (the country) safe. We wrote letters, sent packages, served in support positions with our veterans' organizations, and more, simply to do what we could to help us (and others) to get through a time in this country that we hadn't experienced for many years. The pain and hurt was real... Today, Sonja was hit here with some of the most hurtful words that could have ever been shot through her. It was unbelievably hateful. And the words were thrown at her because she stated that she was "not interested" in carrying on a conversation any longer, where she was berated and lectured for her beliefs. (No one should feel that they must continue in a go-nowhere conversation that is disguised as debate.) What was said: : "...You are what is wrong with America and frankly, you should be ashamed to call yourself an American. Hang up your flag. You have no right to ever fly it, honor it, or have the support of a veteran like (him) and your sister who offered our lives to defend it...Country first. America first. Politicians and parties are expendable. The country is not. Anything short of that is treason." As much as anyone has a right to think, believe, and speak one's mind, and I understand that from the First Amendment position, this is one of the most sickening displays of what some today call, "patriotism," as they hide their humanity in a shroud of Stars and Stripes, confusing it with "nationalism." In moments such as what I have seen today, I have to realize that there are some people in my world, perhaps my fellow veterans, who never will have compassion for others, as they seem to lead with the very rancor of those they have followed or follow. I will forever be grateful to those leaders that I have known and followed, as well as those like my nephews, who are concerned for others, especially our military families. And, although I did not serve in a war zone, I will always support and defend those who understand a broader sense of this world in which we live, as they will do the same for me. Photo credit: Family photos, used with permission.
31 people like this
26 responses
@NJChicaa (107964)
• United States
25 Jul
I hate that "America First" crap. It makes my skin crawl. It is so reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the rise of Hitler. Bro just say you're an ignorant racist. Own that crap. The most pathetic part is that it is almost always spewed by idiots who can't name the 1st 5 presidents, who have no idea what the 4th Amendment says, and who would have trouble filling in a map of US states once they got past California, Texas, Florida, and wherever they live.
8 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
It is so reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the rise of Hitler. Bro just say you're an ignorant racist. Own that crap. And this is EXACTLY what is "nationalism," and has nothing to do with patriotism.
8 people like this
• Dallas, Texas
25 Jul
Have a nice day and take time to walk in the path of the man with no shoes before ascending the ladder of superiority over those you believe inferior to yourself, .NJ Chicaa
4 people like this
@Bensen32 (26531)
• United States
2 Aug
@NJChicaa So, I far from think I am the smartest guy in the room, but I wonder how if I believe we should be taking care of our own in our country first makes me a racist? I'm not saying we should help this race or that one and I'm not saying we should only take care of this race in our country, let's take care of all of them. Maybe it just me but if my sister was out of work and need food, I wouldn't go down the road and drop off food to the neighbor I would give it to my sister and if then I had more, I would worry about the guy down the street. Just in case anyone needs to be reminded what the definition is. RACISM: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized:
1 person likes this
@wolfgirl569 (58593)
• Marion, Ohio
25 Jul
I thank all who have served. But my heart especially goes out to the families of those. Knowing the pain of losing a child I still cannot fathom the pain and worry of having to wait for news either way when you know the risk is extremely high for another family member. Sadly I seen that kind of hate start several years ago. And it has just gotten worse over time. Hugs to both of you. That person showed their true colors with that remark. Sadly there is those that will applaud that person.
8 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
Those kinds of things definitely reflect on people. And the fact that an apology won't ever be made, because it is not deemed necessary by the offender, is just as telling. And yes, there will be many that applaud this kind of behavior. At the very least, there is no holding one accountable. But it is what it is. And we get through it.
4 people like this
@TheHorse (157881)
• Walnut Creek, California
7 Aug
I can't fully understand what that person was trying to say.
1 person likes this
@FourWalls (45875)
• United States
25 Jul
To whomever said that to Sonja, painful self-procreation to you as well as your equestrian transportation. We are right on the cusp of 1920s Germany, where “patriotism” was replaced with nationalism. I was reading an article the other day about the rise in nationalistic churches, where they’re preaching country is god instead of God is God, and how believers are leaving these churches in droves because they don’t feel comfortable there anymore. In the Bible, Israel rejected God and asked for a political ruler. It resulted in their division and eventual destruction and exile. When they returned they were offered an opportunity to accept God again. Instead, they said, “We have no king but Caesar.” These churches are, in essence, doing the same thing: “we have no king but Trump” (or the conservative on the Supreme Court, or the Republican Party, or the “patriot boys,” or whomever). This is what Jerry Falwell’s “moral majority” of the 80s has led to.
5 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
I'm going to have to borrow that first line! LOL you know me I'm a little bit more raw in what I would like to say, but those words would get me banned. Doesn't seem quite equitable, but it is what it is. LOL In what you stated with the historical facts, I see the same patterns. I agree with what you said here regarding the church and the Christians that subscribe to those ideologies. Of course, I don't believe in God any longer, because of the misuse of the word and the misuse of the teachings, and the abuse of people that so-called godly people are supposed to love.
2 people like this
• United States
26 Jul
@FourWalls yes, I know that's been used a lot in the last several years.
2 people like this
@FourWalls (45875)
• United States
25 Jul
@TheSojourner — there’s a saying, mis-attributed to Sinclair Lewis (probably a mash-up and summary of two lines from two different books), “When fascism comes to America it’ll be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
3 people like this
@LadyDuck (401391)
• Switzerland
25 Jul
My father, my grandfathers, my uncles all served in war zone, during WWI and WWII. My grandmother told me many times of the pain not having news of her son (my Dad) for many months and fearing to receive bad news every time the war entered a new phase. My younger brother served as military during the 18 mandatory months when he was young, my husband did not as his father became disabled after being hit by a car. I am always thankful to those who served to keep our freedom.
7 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
As are many of us. And, we, as family, also need to be cared for, as we live through it in many ways, which is why this comment made to Sonja is so rancorous. Your family has many who saw the effects firsthand of war, both as military members and civilians.
6 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
@LadyDuck No, she did not deserve it. Setting boundaries for oneself is acceptable. It shouldn't bring on a barrage of bs intended to belittle.
4 people like this
@LadyDuck (401391)
• Switzerland
25 Jul
@TheSojourner Sonja did not deserve such a hateful comment. Those pathetic fake patriots are those who spill hate around the world. Some family members never came back from the front, I was lucky enough not to have lived those days, but I have heard enough to know how horrible it was for those who had firsthand experience.
5 people like this
@Dena91 (18126)
• United States
25 Jul
Thank you for a very well-written, heartfelt post. And thank you for your service. I am sorry that was said to your sister @SonjaRae. There is no excuse for it. Yes, we are free to speak our mind, and when some do it shows the true nature of their heart, dark and empty. I will never understand why some feel so "big" when they degrade someone else for their beliefs. There is nothing mature about name calling and put-downs.
4 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
I appreciate it and I don't think I understand either those who are so sanctimonious that they can't see what they do to others. Or, maybe they do, and that's what gives them their false sense of courage.
2 people like this
@TheHorse (157881)
• Walnut Creek, California
7 Aug
Put-downs show a part of the heart of the person doing it.
1 person likes this
@LindaOHio (99950)
• United States
25 Jul
I'm so sorry that Sonja was treated this way. And THAT person called him/herself an American? That is beyond my comprehension. Thank you for your thoughtful and well-written post.
7 people like this
@ptrikha_2 (38668)
• India
26 Jul
@LindaOHio Yes, I am always against being too abusive or using strong language against anyone! It's a shame !!
4 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
I appreciate your comment.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (401391)
• Switzerland
25 Jul
Sorry, I suggested without noticing that you had replied.
5 people like this
@Jenaisle (6287)
• Philippines
27 Jul
Although I'm not an American I could well understand the feeling of anxiety and fear the family members are experiencing during the member's military service. There's a reason why citizens feel gratitude for your services because not anyone can readily Abandon their civilian life for the military. You deserve the accolade and gratitude and not scorn or hatred. My aunt who lives in the states had also two sons in the US military and she had shared with us how often he was in fear whenever she sees an official car approaching thinking it could be a piece of bad news about his sons. Up to now, she still feels dreadful of that moment, But she is proud that his sons are ready to lay down their lives for a worthy and noble cause - their country and countrymen, I hope everything will get better soon for you.
2 people like this
@Jenaisle (6287)
• Philippines
29 Jul
@TheSojourner They're in Alaska right now. But for a while, they were sent to Afghanistan. I think Alaska is where they stay temporarily while awaiting any change of destination.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Jul
@Jenaisle okay, that's where they're stationed. B but what branches of services are they in? I started out first in the Air Force and then I switched over to the navy.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Jul
Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I hope that your cousins are safe. What branch(es) are they in?
1 person likes this
@much2say (56065)
• Los Angeles, California
28 Jul
How about compassion for our fellow human beings first. Berating Sonja with such words was totally uncalled for. If this person is talking about what's wrong with America, well they should take a long, hard look in the mirror themselves. Having an opinion is one thing, but being mean-spirited and nasty is another. These words accomplished nothing but show their true, dark colors.
2 people like this
@much2say (56065)
• Los Angeles, California
28 Jul
@TheSojourner That is true too . . . someone who loves what they see in the mirror might not see their flaws. What's tarnished now is the very thing this person takes pride in - I don't expect this person will ever see it that way. You and @sonjarae are toughies .
2 people like this
• United States
29 Jul
@much2say I do agree with you. I live on a military base, as you know. And I have seen people that they turn their garages into man caves. There is one particular person not far from me who has turned his man cave into a shrine to certain ideology. There are Confederate flags of different varieties, there is a maga flag, and there are times when they have parties and they do it in the garage with the door open. They have a billiard table in there and some other things. Not a problem. But I was walking Cooper one evening when this man and his buddies and the women were in there too, and I heard a conversation about them complaining about certain people that had just moved into the neighborhood across the street from them. There were racial slurs being spoken, and I'm not sure they knew I was there. There was a time, when I trusted almost anyone who was a veteran. Not because I liked them, but because they came at freedom for all people from a certain perspective. Or at least I thought so. As you say, much has been tarnished. And that veteran label is one of them among so many people nowadays.
1 person likes this
• United States
28 Jul
@much2say If this person is talking about what's wrong with America, well they should take a long, hard look in the mirror themselves. . I tend to agree, but generally it's these type of personalities that are too busy looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing what they think is so wonderful about themselves. One thing that I will tell you is that @sonjarae is one of the most resilient people I've ever met. She and I have both been through so much in life, and we have both dealt with far better people at being hateful than this person who said this. And we survived them.
2 people like this
@jstory07 (122910)
• Roseburg, Oregon
25 Jul
My family is a military family . My grandfathers were both in the service. My parents were both in the service. Both of my brothers were in the army. My grandson/ son is in the Army right now. My other Grandson wanted to be in the Air Force and fly planes. But he has a back problem which he did not know he had. So he is a park Ranger in Washington state.
4 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
You come from a long line of military heroes. I am grateful to them all, especially your mother, who started to pave the way for those of us women who came after her.
4 people like this
@valmnz (17268)
• New Zealand
25 Jul
That is a really moving piece of writing. I understand why you struggled to write it. Bless you!
2 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
@valmnz I was part of postcrossing.com for a few years. I have a bunch of postcards that were sent to me from all over the world. I'm wondering if there's someone around that collects postcards and might be interested.
2 people like this
@valmnz (17268)
• New Zealand
25 Jul
@TheSojourner now, there's something I can relate to. I too belonged to postcrossing for several years but stopped when postage became so expensive. You could try seling them on something like ebay. I have a little business here in NZ, selling both vintage and modern postards and sell them on a NZ site similar to ebay. Part of the remains of a wee business my late husband and I had. Gives me pocket money each week.
1 person likes this
@valmnz (17268)
• New Zealand
25 Jul
@TheSojourner I too am hoping somewhere online where I can write longer pieces. My search has been in vain so far. I do write for a postcard magazine here, vintage postcards being another of my passions. But that's only four times a year. I'm just considering a few things about NZ for this site.
2 people like this
• Dallas, Texas
25 Jul
This is a very well written post. It was well worth the read.
4 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
I appreciate your coming to read it and to comment.
1 person likes this
@DeborahDiane (38185)
• Laguna Woods, California
26 Jul
I am so sorry for you pain, and thank you for sharing it with others. I, too, support our military. My father and brother were both in the military. Both were liberals their entire lives. I fly my American flag with pride. However, I am NOT a nationalist. I believe strongly in separation of church and state. It would shock some people that many of our founding fathers were Unitarians and NOT Christians. Thomas Jefferson read the Bible, but routinely cut out sections in which Jesus performed miracles, because he only saw Jesus as a moral teacher, NOT as the son of God. I cannot believe that anyone would say such a cruel thing to Sonja, or anyone else who was flying a flag. I believe that Liberal Democrats and other groups can love our country just as much as the extreme Right Wing groups, and liberals often have a lot more compassion for the under-privileged in our country. Hang you flag with pride, support our military, and continue to be the compassionate person that you and Sonja are. Those things are NOT mutually exclusive.
3 people like this
• United States
29 Jul
Thank you for your kindness in sharing your thoughts here. I always believed as you did, and I did know that they were Unitarians. You are right, most don't know that. I grew up and was quite conservative GOP, and evangelical Christian, in my 20s, but I always questioned the lack of compassion from so many that I encountered on a daily basis. I started to see things in a much different light, as I started to open my eyes, my brain, and my heart. I left the GOP only 8 years ago. I no longer am "card-carrying." I consider myself to be an "independent Thinker," and reject any political party affiliation. I, like so many others, am a centrist. Contrary to the extremists on either side, I pay much more attention than either wants to give credit for. Interestingly, when I observe those who now are self-proclaimed "Patriots," they wave their brand of stars'n'stripes in ways that, if they knew ANYTHING, violate The U.S. Code, i.e. altering the flag by superimposing someone's likeness over it, wearing clothing made out of flags, draping the flag around their shoulders, like a cape, etc. It makes me ill, every time I see it. But then, I was arguing and challenging in 1973 the base I was stationed at who was flying the flag incorrectly, being bold enough to walk into the base commander's office to do so. *laughs* I will always support those who serve with a servant's heart. Again, thanks for your thoughtful message.
1 person likes this
• United States
31 Jul
@DeborahDiane I could just hug you! Thank you for your words of support. I think that we are a lot more alike than me meet the eye. We may see things from a different perspective, of course, but I appreciate the respect that you have in sharing some of it.
1 person likes this
• Laguna Woods, California
30 Jul
@TheSojourner - Thank you so much. Like you, my husband and I are "non-partisan" voters. I have been non-partisan my entire adult life, and my husband switched from Republican to non-partisan about 5 years ago. I believe that it is the non-partisan voters who truly decide elections. Registered Republicans vote almost exclusively for Republicans. Registered Democrats vote almost exclusively for Democrats. The one-third of voters who are non-partisan are the ones who elect people and I am glad that most of them pay attention to the decisions they are making. I consider myself very Patriotic, and I don't need to drape a flag over my shoulders to try to convince others that I support our Democracy.
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (283346)
• Rockingham, Australia
25 Jul
That is just so, so awful that your sister was abused in this way. I'm really sorry this happened.
4 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
Thanks. There have been attacks by far greater people than this. We have both learned how to deal with that.
2 people like this
@akanetuk (2061)
25 Jul
One of the greatest service to a nation is military service, congrats.
4 people like this
• United States
29 Jul
Thank you.
@GardenGerty (146405)
• United States
25 Jul
Hatefulness is not called for. I am sad for this.
2 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
I agree. It's one thing to have different of opinions, but for you to become hateful and then refuse to apologize for it on a personal attack, is uncalled for and completely different than just disagreements
2 people like this
@kareng (49185)
• United States
27 Jul
SMH...that statement made to your sister makes me ill. I can only imagine how she felt. I'm sorry this happened to her, she didn't deserve that kind of treatment at all. Humanity has gone out the window it seems. This is going to be a very scary world in another few years if we keep going down the current path. Thank goodness there are still good people around!
2 people like this
• United States
29 Jul
Thank you so much, Karen. It's already a "very scary world," when I look at the hateful divisiveness from both ends of the spectrum. I do hope that the goodness wins out.
@allen0187 (56508)
• Philippines
26 Jul
Much respect and thank you for your service!
2 people like this
• United States
26 Jul
I appreciate you reading the post. No thanks needed, it was my honor to serve
2 people like this
@allen0187 (56508)
• Philippines
28 Jul
1 person likes this
@celticeagle (135265)
• Boise, Idaho
25 Jul
I am so sorry to hear of this happening. My maternal grandfather served in the Army in World War I. My father served in the Navy in World War II. I am proud of their service and yours. Also sorry to hear of your abusive family experiences.
2 people like this
@celticeagle (135265)
• Boise, Idaho
26 Jul
@TheSojourner ........That is very true. I just hate to hear of it happening to those I know and like.
1 person likes this
• United States
26 Jul
@celticeagle I understand. I just try not to get to down about the past. Even at 67 years of age, I can still put myself into a funk.
2 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
Thank you. It's all part of life and dealing with our lives and making us who we are.
2 people like this
@RasmaSandra (56446)
• Daytona Beach, Florida
25 Jul
We should always be proud of and remember those who have served, Rendered me speechless about Sonja, People like that are what is wrong with this country and should be shot on the spot, so to say, Sorry she had to go through that,
2 people like this
• United States
25 Jul
Human beings can be despicable, especially in how they treat one another. It's one thing to have an opinion about something, it's another to try to destroy another's heart by being hateful.
2 people like this
@RasmaSandra (56446)
• Daytona Beach, Florida
25 Jul
2 people like this
@Bensen32 (26531)
• United States
2 Aug
Thank you to your nephews, yourself and all veterans. I have to say, would have been very hard not to put my fist through someone's face if they said something like that to me. Thankfully, I wear my Marine Corps hat every day and I have not had anything but nice comments from people or no comment at all. Who knows maybe they are saying it behind my back and that is their right. Sadly we now live in a time where to many people like to talk about things they know nothing about and assume things they have never lived.
2 people like this
• United States
3 Aug
@Bensen32 cuz there's always one to take it too far and and point the finger at the other one saying, "She /he started it!!" rather than owning up to their sh-tuff.
1 person likes this
@Bensen32 (26531)
• United States
3 Aug
@TheSojourner It sure is a different world. Conversations with the "other side" just doesn't seem to happen without hateful and attacking words. What happen to being able to disagree with becoming hateful? Sad times we live in.
1 person likes this
@Bensen32 (26531)
• United States
3 Aug
@TheSojourner LOL, yes...you're right about that.
1 person likes this