Memorial Day makes me uncomfortable. It is meant to be about those that died, but with them absent, people want to thank those that served. I never saw combat. Like many, I joined the military for personal reasons, not altruistic ones. (College money.) It was pre-9/11, and Bosnia was in the headlines. Defending freedom was a distant thought.
I enjoyed serving, and got every last benefit out of the deal. I suffered nothing. So to be thanked for my service...
Today I think of those who died. Not people like me...
Don't get me wrong, compared to my college bound friends maybe I suffered a little. One
definitely gives up some freedoms. Air Force "boot camp" was rough, all
six weeks of it. (The Army does 10, and the Marines do 13.) I
did learn some powerful lessons about dealing with physical pain. (Not
necessarily a big deal if you haven't physically broken anything.) And
I'm sure my wife has benefited from the lessons in cleaning and ironing.
also caught the worst cold of my life during combat support operations.
(sarcasm alert) It turned into walking pneumonia. We were in northern
California directly supporting operations in Iraq. They had us in these
not so mobile, mobile trailers full of computer equipment for analyzing
intelligence. 105 outside. 45 inside. Not good for your health.
One of my friends from high school who was in the 101 Airborne
pointed out that the more appropriate name for my service was the Chair
Force. I couldn't disagree. The chair I was in, analyzing
intelligence, purportedly retailed for $500. I did feel compelled to
point out that we got paid roughly the same. While I returned to my one
person air conditioned dorm room, he was often sharing a ten man tent,
where temperatures could reach 100 degrees.
Did I mention that I earned a Bachelor's degree debt free? And that the military helped pay for parts of two graduate degrees?
Some have pointed out that this is a pretty good deal. And it is, but consider the numbers. An enlisted soldier or sailor with the rank of E2, one of the most
common junior ranks, is paid a salary of $1716.90, plus a tax free
housing and food allowance of $869.05, for a gross total of $2585.95 per
month. At 50 hours a week, that is about $12.92 per hour, plus free
healthcare and other incidental benefits, and the GI Bill.
That is a good deal for a kid fresh out of high school with no marketable skills.
the other hand, is it sufficient for combat, worth risking life and
limb over? (No. So you get an additional $225 per month combat pay.)
plenty of poor kids do join for the money and the training absent other
prospects, it seems like the fellas on Wall Street could spare a few
more dollars--if in fact these soldiers give us the freedom to make as
much money as the market will bear.
get me wrong. I'm not really all that worked up about this, I am just
sharing my perspective. Ultimately, it is a day for those that died, not for people
like me. I'm just saying I don't like standing at church to be
recognized for example, and I think I'm not alone.
You have to want to join. I did and am grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded.