U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew Crowder believes heroes come in all different forms; from Green Berets to everyday men and women.
Today I was given the chance to read Tom Matlack’s article, The Navy Seals and Magical Thinking. Ordinarily I try to stay away from hot-button military related topics, seeing as I am in the military, but Tom’s piece rang true for me in many ways. Over the last few weeks and months our military has gotten a black eye in the public view due to the actions of very few. While these actions are unspeakable and wrong, they should not overshadow the good work being done by the hundreds of thousands of other Soldiers who are doing the right thing.
Like Tom, I snort up information on our Navy Seals and other Special Forces Operators like an addict on a coke train. In high school, I was introduced to the book Rogue Warrior by Richard Marcinko and related to It the way Tom did to Lone Survivor, fascinated with the accounts of their training and selection process. The incredible stories of heroism in venues from Vietnam to Iran are outstanding and awe-inspriring, and when coupled with the knowledge of what these men have gone through it really puts these feats into perspective for me.
In round numbers there are about one million men and women in the military amongt all four of the services. That number is about .33% of the American population today. In comparison, during World War II approximately 16 million who served. Of our current military there are maybe 20,000 operators in the Special Forces. That comes to .00667% of the American population.
Our Soldiers do things that most are either unwilling or unable to do, every single one of them volunteers. There is no draft like there was in Vietnam, Korea, WW2, or WW1, and no one is forced to be in the military. Of these volunteers there are a select few that choose to volunteer over and over again in order to become these operators. Truly special indeed.
Ten years ago I joined the Army with big dreams. I had quit my job as an accountant and joined the Army as an Infantryman. Infantry is about as far from Accountant as it gets, so why did I choose that? I wanted to be G.I. Joe, I wanted to be Rambo, I wanted to be one of the special men that I had read about in books. I even went so far as to sign a letter of intent for Special Forces when I joined. 10 years and a lot of miles later, I have 3 blown discs in my back, a torn up shoulder and a head of grey hair. I would still like to do it, but I know physically I can’t anymore.
In many ways, Tom is right in his Navy Seals piece, and I respect his opinion as a man. He talks about how dangerous it is to bow down to these real life Rambos as though that is what all men should be like. These men are not “every man”, they most certainly are not normal. That is what makes them so good at what they do. Normal guys like us can’t or won’t do the things that these men do on a daily basis.
While these men are good men, they should not be worshipped. It is exactly the same as with the professional athletes, celebrities, politicians and talking heads that people put way too much stock into. Their opinions do not sway mine because I don’t feel a need to buy into anyone’s hype. What makes their opinion any better than mine? Oh that’s right, they are famous so they are obviously smarter, right? Not necessarily.
All of these groups of men (and women) should be shown some respect for what they do. They have worked very hard to get to where they are and deserve that recognition. But what they don’t deserve is more respect or leverage than those of us “normal” guys with “normal” lives.
Our country does have work to do in terms of our domestic and foreign policies, no doubt about it. But for me, based upon personal interactions I’ve had with our Special Forces and the research I have done on them, I am glad that these fine men are on our side. While not every man can be a Navy Seal or a Green Beret, every man can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if it affects millions or just one. Maybe that is why we, as men, are all so different and why it’s good that we aren’t all John Wayne or Rambo.
See Michael Kamber’s images from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan
For more on the Middle East conflicts, read Michael Kamber’s piece Iraq’s Mistakes in Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of world_armies