Last week in this space I asked the question, "Why did you join the army?" I never answered that question directly throughout the writing. That was intentional, the point being it's a difficult question to answer, with each soldier, sailor, Marine, airman or coastie having their own unique, and deeply personal answer. A commenter noted the blog was cute, and gave me a C+. Above average, but still I feel the need to answer the question.
I should also explain that what brought that question to mind is the number of people I've heard take pity on me when they found out I was a soldier. Sometimes people apologize, or get a look on their faces similar to the look people get when they see a puppy crap on the carpet. It's a weird mixture of pity, confusion and sometimes even anger at something they cannot understand.
Plenty of other people do not give that look, congratulate me, thank me, or tell me they wish they had joined the army. And still, I am not answering the question, so here it is:
I joined the army because I have a family history of armed service to my country.
My grandpa, a great aunt and a great uncle all served in World War II and an uncle served in Vietnam. These are amazing people. These are the kinds of people you grow up wanting to be. My brother actually got his commission before me and gave me my oath of office. I once received his orders and the army at one point, when I was a brand new 2LT, thought I was my brother's wife on account of my first name.
But it wasn't just family. I grew up watching Patrick Swayze in endless replays of Red Dawn. I bought into the hype. I wanted to be as strong as a wolverine and at age 17 I had the arrogance, the self-confidence, that if anyone ever raised a hand against my country, I would be the one to fight back. I would make heroes of lesser men with evil intents against the American way of life.
I joined the army because I had the temerity to think I could lead men and women in combat. By the grace of God, and with the helping hands and sometimes harsh but always supportive actions of some amazing non-commissioned officers and some hard working enlisted men and women, I had the honor to do just that.
I joined the army because I did not think there was anything else I ever wanted to do. And yes, I got a free college education, and yes I got to live in Europe. And yes, I meant some real jerks in the army, some folks I'd rather not have lunch with anytime soon, but they served too and I respect their decision to serve. And yes, I ultimately left the army before I could retire from it, but that does not mean I would not have joined again if given the chance as a 17-year-old punk kid.
It also does not mean I did or did not always agree with the way I was used as a soldier, but neither do those thoughts take anything away from my pride to serve. Here's hoping that's enough of an answer and that I can get my grade from a C+ to a B-.
For more by Stacy Bare, click here.
For more on "Tell Me Why," click here.