What We Talk About When We Talk About My Military Career

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About Ryan Bjorklund

While a high school junior, Ryan Björklund went to Australia on a student exchange program. Although an invaluable experience for him, it also depleted all the money he had accumulated for college tuition. Upon receiving zero scholarships despite scoring above-average on the ACT, he joined the US Army and served from 2006-2012, working as an ammo supply specialist, engineer, and cavalry scout. He was honorably discharged as a 19D20 (SGT) cavalry scout from Ft. Bliss, TX and now lives in Pittsburgh.

Comments

  1. SPC Justin M. Gilbert says:

    Fuck yea ryan you the man. Love ya bro :)

  2. Andres Alvarez says:

    We all have questions and opinions about war and democracy. Trying to self appoint ourselves as experts without experiencing both by first hand is pointless. Maybe being in the presence of someone who has experience and has a better knowledge of the same will make us think that their goals and ours goals are a bit bigger than just opinions and words… they might inspire us to follow them and ask .. because we have already acknowledged that we do not know best.

    great article hope to read more in the future.

  3. Thank you for sharing a story of what it’s like to be objectified. You have a wonderful voice, and I would love to read more by you.

  4. Valter Viglietti says:

    Thank you Ryan.
    I admit – a bit shamingly ;) – I’m one of those “smug intellectual”, and I admit my own prejudices.

    But, after reading your honest and thoughtful words, I’d be really interested into listening to “what few people want to hear”. I think that would be much more useful, to my understanding, than expressing my own prejudices.
    I hope to read you again soon.

  5. Kendall says:

    Love you cousin! This is great!

  6. Transhuman says:

    I remember speaking with my cousins, after they completed national service in South Africa. Their stories were very different to what the “public” conversation was like at social gatherings. I’ve never cleared a minefield but I won’t forget what my middle cousin told me about the unrelenting fear that each step could mean pain, dismemberment or death. The fury that I can only describe as incandescent when my oldest cousin described learning they had spent an hour clutching the ground expecting to die under a mortar bombardment that turned out to be from his own side. I remember people saying it was “understandable” that my oldest would visibly flinch when doors slammed. They made jokes about him diving for cover behind a sofa.

    Too much focus on what they wanted the fighting, the forced enlistment or whatever the agenda surrounding the politics was, to mean to them. Scant attention was paid to what these young men endured.

  7. Allison H. says:

    You brought up some good points in this article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    I was wondering how you feel about being publicly thanked for your service…for example, when there’s an active duty military personnel in uniform on a flight, sometimes the flight attendant will ask for applause to honor that person’s commitment. Also, national sports teams will give out free tickets to games to veterans so they can “thank the troops for their service” by turning the cameras on the section of veterans to fill a block of time during a lull in the game.

  8. Not all of us who are pro-soldier, anti-war are “smug” about it; nor is it our latest “cause,” as if it were some sort of fashion. Some of us have just had our fill of wars which are difficult to define in terms of national security vs. other agendas. We’re not even a score of years into the 21st Century, and America is sabre-rattling its way into a third war. Why? Let’s not colonize the moon, and go to Mars and the rest of the solar system! Let’s fight yet another dubious war! Let’s send more of our best and brightest to be wounded and killed, and not given proper care when they get back from their tours. Sounds like a path to success to me! Best regards!

  9. Brenda says:

    Congrats on going to a university :)

  10. I guess what I would like to know and what would be most helpful to me personally and professionally (because I have lot of vets in my life in both spheres) is how to convey that I am open to listening about all those hard things to listen to. It seems kind of pushy to poke and prod about those sorts of things after all I don’t know what you are comfortable talking about. But I also don’t want to be so passive where it seems as though I don’t want to hear about it.

    In the end with some of them it comes to a point of crisis and it all spills and I listen but want to shake them and say, “Hey you could have told me before it got to this. It would have been ok.” I don’t. I know when I was dealing with PTSD issues and some other stuff it was helpful to just be able to say the ugly stuff and send it out in the world and not have it sitting on me. So some people knew it wasn’t all peaches and flowers all the time.

  11. Great writing …. glad you shared this and wish more people would listen.

  12. The Wet One says:

    It will be a happy day when humans collectively decide not to kill one another. That day won’t be coming soon (if ever), but hope springs eternal. At the very least, we can be certain that the peace of the dead will one day be with us.

    As for this article, yeah, I’ve got nothing constructive to say, but we all knew that already.

    Cheers!

    The Wet One

  13. Ryan: Thank you VERY much for your service. I really appreciate it.

    Allison H.: I am in the military. Most of my fellow airmen really appreciate it when we are thanked for our service. I feel somewhat uncomfortable about it as I don’t like the attention, but, I accept their thanks graciously and tell them that I appreciate their support.

    Kat: The right moment would have to present itself for me to want to be able to sincerely discuss my experiences in Iraq. Most people don’t ask. The ones that do ask have only seem to want gory details in quick, 30-second type sound bites. I would need to see real sincerity and caring in a person making such a request. And, we’d have to be in a situation that won’t cause me to be rushed.

  14. I get incredibly frustrated when I run into either of the two people that you describe, even just from an aloof political standpoint. The liberal is actually more annoying to me because I cannot just hate and ignore him

  15. You left out one other stereotype– the returned soldier with a chip on his shoulder, aloof and full of the “secret knowledge” of having once been in combat. Get over yourself, pal. You want understanding from civilians? ain’t going to happen. Be happy this war around they didn’t spit on you when you got off the plane. You signed up of your own free will, you did your duty, and you managed to get home in one piece. Now you want understanding? really? or is it more of I was there… I KNOW! (and you don’t). Here’s a truism: you signed up and risked your ass so clueless idiots could have the right to be cheerfully ignorant and run around spouting their slogans and tweeting happily about nonsense. It’s the American way. Now go to school, get your degree, start a family, and be glad you can still wipe your own ass. (and you can keep the smugness of your secret knowledge– you’ve earned it).

  16. Justin C. Cliburn says:

    You are right on so many levels. People want to hear the crazy combat-related stories, but those aren’t the stories that necessarily resonate with you after you return. I’ve found that I have to “read” people in order to give an answer that will not start an argument. Everyone’s war experience is unique to that individual. What we can all agree on is how awkward the conversations you described can be. I grew up in a military town and lived there for five years after returning from Iraq. Now that I live in a “normal” city, I find myself in your situation much more often. You did a great job explaining why so often it’d be so much easier to just say “I don’t want to talk about” . . . if that didn’t seem so cliche.

  17. Brother! You’re amazing !! Love you

  18. Well, don’t I feel like a prick now. I’m sure my dark forehead probably contained more interest than the brain behind it. I guess sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all.

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