Military and their families are different. Last month, I attended an American Veterans Committee event with the World Veterans Federation. Full disclosure, I am a senior advisor to AVC. Mr. Dan Viggo Bergtun, President of the federation, briefly addressed the gathering. President Viggo Bergtun’s remarks were a powerful reminder of what military veterans hold in common.
“Nearly every military veteran sacrificed for a country, belief or cause.” Mister Bergtun pointed out. My varied military career provided the opportunity to break bread with, and in some cases, live with, foreign military and their families. We held more in common than what divided us. A greater purpose drove our lives. This sense of dedication seems to be generally alien to many Americans.
Veterans realize that it is not all about them and that they cannot do it all on their own. Surviving in a war zone means that you are strong, supported and lucky. When a large segment of the US public embraces an individualism that undermines efforts to build a better nation and society, some veterans can lose their way.
The old recruiting slogan ‘An Army of One’ was a running joke and punchline. You are only as good as the person beside you and the people behind you. You would give your life if necessary to protect others. On 9/11 many questioned that unarmed fighter aircraft could be ordered to ram an airliner heading for Washington. Fighter intercept training covered just such a last ditch maneuver to prevent enemy aircraft from reaching a target. The vast majority of fliers would have executed the order. Most Americans were astonished and many horrified at that reality.
Now, compare that willingness to work and to sacrifice together with a private sector that often denigrates attention to any goals other than profit. The vulture capitalists and quick buck artists that pillage solid companies loading them with debt and taking the cash often leave behind crushed workers and towns. The vultures would call those companies, workers and towns losers, just as they do Trump investors. The majority of Americans would never behave this way but cheap buck artists like Romney, Trump and Toomey most certainly do, often receiving high praise; unless, it is your job, town or business.
Our long standing American values are epitomized in the best of our public servants from military to emergency responders to teachers and healthcare professionals. Denigration of public service and servants leads to a culture of selfishness and destruction. Is a lack of required public service tearing us apart? What made this nation great was not our private sector. Many nations had thriving private sectors but what set this nation apart was recognition that we need our brightest and most capable leaders in education, public service and government as well as business and trade.
Two Gold Star Mothers understand the disease infecting many Americans and for which Trump is a poster child. In referring to Trump’s recent veterans skirmish, Michelle DeFord, Gold Star mother, VoteVets.org supporter, said; “Mr. Trump hasn’t the slightest notion of what the word sacrifice means. His grandiose gestures about giving money to our vets is purely for the benefit of the media.” Karen Meredith, Gold Star mother, Military Families Liaison, VoteVets.org, said:
“As a Gold Star Mother, I listened in horror, as he said that he ‘liked people who weren’t captured’ in war, as if they were losers for not completing their mission and coming back. I thought of my son, Ken, who lost his life in service to America, and couldn’t even imagine what Mr. Trump really thinks about him, and all those who didn’t come back alive.”
Perhaps the difficulties many veterans encounter in PTSD counseling is partly explained in Matthew B. Crawford’s New York Times review of Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe.
“…Post-traumatic stress disorder is a medical term for a cultural problem: the basic impossibility of digesting the experience of combat as an isolated individual among other isolated individuals, each devoted to pursuing his or her private interests. There is no tribe. To risk one’s life for the common good is to declare oneself outside this cultural logic of acquisitive individualism; the veteran is an outsider to us by definition, and no amount of yellow ribbons can change that fact….”
Apparently, many Americans do not understand veterans. Besides fighting for each other, perhaps veterans should redirect themselves toward creating a national and global society based upon their personal values and work with other veterans to build a society where peace can grow. Clearly, the task is beyond the capabilities of many politicians.
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