Saturday, October 31, 2009
It's a common thing to see articles in the news media about the negative aspects of war on the micro level. The dead, the wounded, the mentally and emotionally damaged, all appear to get a fair amount of coverage and exposure, so I'm going to focus on a few of the good things some of us get out of serving in combat - because many of us are getting a lot out of it.
Wearing a uniform that says 'US Marines' has always been a great honor for me, and more so when I've been able to wear the uniform overseas. Knowing you represent the ideals and power of the United States gives one quite a bit to live up to, and a lot of pride goes with that. Being out in the middle of nowhere, knowing you represent the end of the line of America's reach is quite a thing...I can remember thinking how the power of all those billions of dollars and millions of people ended right there with us at a lonely outpost in an isolated valley. Maybe the thought of our 'power' ending there in an isolated valley comes across as a bit imperialistic, but I make no apologies for what we're doing and love being a part of it.
People are good at different things. Some people happen to be good at conducting warfare. I spent months this past tour with a Marine who stated numerous times that he kept coming back over to war zones as an infantryman because it was what he was good at. He undoubtedly was very good at it...and there's nothing wrong with that at all. I believe everyone wants the chance to use his or her skills that he or she was born with or has developed and honed over time, even if those skills happen to belong to what some might call an unfortunate but necessary profession.
Undoubtedly, those that come back from combat have an increased appreciation for life generally. Anytime I'm away from friends and family for lengthy periods I miss them, but getting a real feel for the fact that everything can be gone in a moment certainly helps heighten that sense of gratitude for the times together. Having survived some difficult moments, I know I personally have more confidence than I had before. Having taken some risks, lived through and overcome things that were legitimately difficult makes life's daily challenges at home that much easier to deal with, though the flip side of that coin is sometimes daily life at home seems a bit trite. Before I was on the ground directly doing things that were in the news regularly, which kind of makes me feel underutilized today. I'd argue that satisfaction is life's best feeling, and it can come to a person in many ways, but one of the best ways to find it is to overcome a period of difficulty with a job well done.
The losses of warfare are tragic and far-reaching, but for those of us that survive, that feeling of satisfaction is why many of us keep coming back for more.