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November 10: Happy Birthday, Marines...and some thoughts - MoonScape [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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November 10: Happy Birthday, Marines...and some thoughts [Nov. 10th, 2011|05:10 pm]
[Current Mood |thoughtful]

We often hear people say, of those in the military or who've served earlier, "We owe them."

But in what coin do the military and ex-military actually want to be paid?  Respect, of course.  Recognition that yeah, we did step forward (though I knew plenty of really good people who were drafted--but they did their duty afterward.)  Good care when they're wounded,  But when we get commended for "defending the country"....let's think about the country we thought we were defending.   What did "the home of the free and the brave" mean to us--not us in a lump, but us individually, when we joined up.

It's not the same country for all.  I knew people who were "military brats" to start with, growing up through dozens of school systems, on dozens of bases, always a little apart from most of the civilian kids they knew.  Don't make too tight a friendship, because we're due another transfer.  I knew people who were fresh off the family farm in the grain belt (including, believe it or not, a tall, husky young man from Iowa whose last name was Corn.  Nice fellow.)  People from New York City. People from suburbs in Maryland.  From California.  From Nevada.  Etc. So their idea of what kind of country they were defending had a large dollop of different in it, and it was in the military that we (including me, from the Texas/Mexican border downstream of Laredo) began to realize how diverse this country was...not from schoolbooks, or TV, but from rubbing up against the variety.  Most of us mellowed out some from the contacts, learned to see the worth to the country of people from different backgrounds and very unlike ourselves.  Some hardened into defensive shells.  That's diversity too.

What I wish those who'd never served would agree they owed me is that old dream: equality.  Respectful equality.  Does not mean I claim to be more than you--or as smart/strong/nice as "anyone" (there are plenty of people smarter than me, stronger than me, nicer than me)--but that I am equal *as a citizen*...I have my vote, you have yours.  Hear what I'm really saying.  Don't have to agree...but really hear it, and understand why, for me, that's how it is.  Tell me your story--I will listen and try to understand why, for you, that's how it is.

Another old dream: freedom, that can't exist without respect and the kind of equality I'm talking about.  Your life is yours to live...in the old phrase, you can swing your arm as much as you like until it reaches my nose.  My life is mine to live: win, lose, or draw, good decisions or stupid ones.  I won't try to run your life; don't you try to run mine. 

Respect.  And here I find myself turning on the idea like a dog on a pillow.  Does anyone owe me respect just because I served in the military? Well...yes, sort of.  But they also owe respect to everyone else for the services they've done for the country--which includes things like showing up for work on the garbage truck, going down mines, picking tomatoes.  Even being a female REMF in the '60s and early '70s had its dangers--the anti-war demonstrators in the D.C. area weren't any gentler to women in uniform than to men...but not compared to a coal miner in West Va., or a highway construction flagger on a busy road or the repair crew for the electric company trying to restore power in a storm.  Teachers, firefighters, truck drivers, bus drivers, people up in a bucket working on phone lines or power lines (saw three yesterday), people patching potholes,  mothers doing the grocery shopping with a toddler in tow and another one in the oven, nurses, doctors,  people restocking grocery shelves...where would this country be without them?  

What I think is owed to those who protect the country in uniform is for civilian citizens to be good citizens...because it's the civilian population that must hold the country together: feed it, clothe it, house it, transport it, make or grow or move the things everyone needs, keep its infrastructure intact.  And the same virtues needed in a military person--honesty, courage, fairness, judgment, initiative, all the rest--are needed in every single citizen.  Do what needs to be done as well as you possibly can.  Help others when they need it.  When you see someone fall, pick 'em up.  LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND.  Seriously.  If one single Marine tradition could be grafted into the heart of every civilian, I'd probably pick that over some others: LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND.

The idea that it's OK to dismiss individuals or groups because they're not worth the sacrifice of bringing them along--Ron Paul's disgusting comments that some are makers and some are takers--that's a slap in my face, and in the face of every other person who goes out full of the desire to serve and protect the country.   That idea unravels the country and its virtues behind our backs.  Especially since we now know how badly vets have been, and may be, treated by those who don't agree with that vet's choices.  The Marine Corps is and always will be my branch of service.  Once a Marine, always a Marine is not just a saying.  But the citizenry of this country are in my present unit.  And I resent the hell out of it when someone wants to leave behind immigrants, or a racial group, or the old, or the gay, or the single moms, or the children of divorce, or the poor, or the disabled or any other currently unfashionable "unprofitable" groups or individuals.  That's just wrong.

So: pay sideways.  If someone respects me, or wants to show gratitude to me...be a better citizen.  Respect those around you.  Show gratitude to the country for what it's given you (without complaining that's too little or you're asked to pay something back in taxes.)  Make choices that are good for the country--not just your precinct or your ethnic group or your faith community.  Think bigger.  Think deeper.  Think farther ahead.  Learn how to find the facts about things--learn to ignore the sound bites.  As a former mayor here said, "Back your ears and lean into the collar--we got a job to do."  Make the lives of everyone around you better--and by doing that, make the country better. 

That's what you owe me.  That's also what I owe you.  That's also what I owe the men and women now in uniform and those who will be.  We're in the same unit.

Semper Fi.


[User Picture]From: silverbackbutch
2011-11-10 11:26 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday, Semper Fi. And a heartfelt thank you.
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[User Picture]From: la_marquise_de_
2011-11-10 11:34 pm (UTC)
Our current UK government is conducting a systematic pillaging of our public sector, presenting those who work in it as privileged, lazy, over-rewarded etc etc. This is supported by a tabloid culture that seems to take the 'servant' element of 'Civil Servant' to mean that people in those jobs are a kind of underclass with no lives of their own and no right to same. The public sector is being presented as a huge drain on 'the taxpayer'.
That would be the public sector who teach in schools and nurse in hospitals, collect garbage, deal with tax claims and welfare claims, police the streets, struggle with huge case loads trying to help people in need, fight fires and drive ambulances, serve in the armed forces and all the many other tasks paid for by the public purse. I was raised with a service ethos -- that it was right and worthy to work to support and help others. Most of my fellow public sector workers feel the same. But we're an easy target. The government holds the purse-strings. It sets our terms and conditions, it gets to play fast and loose with our pensions and jobs, and then wants acclaim for creating overwork, sickness, distress and struggle, because 'the taxpayer' must come first.
We pay taxes. But we don't count.
So yes, what you wrote. Every word.
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From: sheff_dogs
2011-11-16 03:50 pm (UTC)
Some of us think you count and think you are the ones that make the country work!
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[User Picture]From: la_marquise_de_
2011-11-16 07:41 pm (UTC)
That's good to know.
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[User Picture]From: catsittingstill
2011-11-11 12:13 am (UTC)
If someone respects me, or wants to show gratitude to me...be a better citizen.

Yes ma'am. I'll try.
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[User Picture]From: seekerval
2011-11-11 12:27 am (UTC)
Well said. Thanks for putting this out here.

And By The Way: Thank you for your military service and for your continuing service as a citizen.
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[User Picture]From: wldrose
2011-11-11 12:57 am (UTC)
Very true.

But just as we train young people in the military and give them the tools to cope with what they will be asked to do, I think we also owe them health care and the tools to make it though civilian life. And we dont seem to be doing that very well.

I will respect all people. but those who risked themselves (even in something I dont agree with) deserve a bit more because they gave more, Thats what this evil socialist belives.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-11-12 03:26 am (UTC)
I agree--health care, education assistance and advice so they don't get scammed by some of those schools, etc. Support for those disabled who aren't going to bounce back in a couple of years, etc.
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[User Picture]From: seticat
2011-11-11 01:52 am (UTC)
Oh, so very right. Thank you for putting it all into words.

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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2011-11-11 03:00 am (UTC)
Happy birthday, Captain Moon.
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[User Picture]From: wcg
2011-11-11 03:01 am (UTC)
Semper Fi.
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[User Picture]From: amusingmuse
2011-11-11 05:47 pm (UTC)
Semper Fi! Thank you ma'am.

Having struggled and escaped poverty and food stamps, I can attest that a "taker" may be the "maker" of the future. And many of those struggling are the ones who do all the jobs which people take for granted.

A person in need today, may be the person you need tomorrow.
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2011-11-12 12:43 am (UTC)
Good point, muse.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-11-12 03:29 am (UTC)
Absolutely. And your last sentence should be engraved on some of the granite hearts in Congress and conservative think tanks.
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[User Picture]From: countrycousin
2011-11-11 10:53 pm (UTC)
Well said! (as others have said)
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2011-11-12 12:40 am (UTC)
Great words, Elizabeth; moving in their truth. And thank you.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-11-12 03:29 am (UTC)
Thank you all--some for your service in the military, and all for your listening ear and your intention to be good citizens.
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