This past week, there were two stories in the media concerning military people, each one having a starkly different moral lesson.  There was the story of favored-son David Petraeus and his fall from grace.  Then there was the humble story of tragedy and heroism at a parade for veterans in a Texas town when a train struck the float carrying veterans and their spouses.  With Petraeus, you have a man with great privileges and many honors who made an all-too-human selfish error in, not only having an affair, but also possibly yielding to Obama administration pressure to help cover the Benghazi fiasco in exchange for cover on his affair.  In the Petraeus story, you have somewhat understandable human frailty and failure (remember that in the Bible, even David, a man after God’s own heart, failed in this regard).  But then there is also the possibility that Petraeus went beyond simple failure in trying to cover up his sin.  In the Texas parade tragedy, you have Joshua Michael, a hero and humble servant of his country, who risked everything on behalf of his country by serving meekly and courageously in war, without the great honors, privileges, and even relative safety under which Petraeus served in much more cushy, comfortable conditions.  But he made one final sacrifice before he stepped off this mortal coil. 

This is not to denigrate Petraeus’ service or that of other high ranking officers, but you have to understand how military culture operates.  Starting at the O6 level, Colonel in the Army, Air Force, and Marines or Captain in the Navy and Coast Guard, the military privileges greatly magnify, and the conditions under which they serve becomes much more luxurious, safe, and comfortable.  There starts to be a separation from the ordinary military servants and these anointed ones.  I would not be so skeptical of these high-ranking military if I had not seen so often the rigged, crap-shoot of a process that promotes many of them far beyond their actual talent.  There are some that reach this high level that are good soldiers, who understand that it is responsibility before privilege, and serve relatively humbly.  I have encountered a few such soldiers in my career, very honorable men and women who deserve their positions.   But this does not validate the system.  Remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Unfortunately, the majority which I’ve encountered are vain, narcissistic, and abusive people with very little talent who gained their position by being politically connected with other high-ranking officers in the system or by being part of the aristocracy, having fathers or mothers or uncles or whatever that are already inside the circle of privilege.  Or they just are in the right place at the right time often enough that they have the appearance of being anointed. 

Some might find my words too harsh or unbelievable, but I am not alone in my opinion and not without empirical evidence.  Many, such as the late David Hackworth, a highly decorated real soldier, saw through this privileged class and often criticized them, calling them so fittingly “perfumed princes.”  And it has already been pointed out by many that the flag officer corps is as large today as it was during World War II, even though the military services are only a fraction as big as that gigantic military juggernaut that crushed Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini and their allies.  I don’t think I need to tell you, that, when an organization such as the flag officer corps is much larger than it has to be for its actual mission, there starts to be tremendous waste, and the standards are loosened, becoming arbitrary and political for selecting its members or governing their behavior.  Moreover, because they are "special," the normal rules don't apply to them anymore.  They are frequently given a pass on behavior that would get the rest of us beheaded with our heads afterwards being displayed on a pike for all to see.  You have just such a situation with our currently bloated government and our corrupt legislative branch.  The stories of corruption, waste, arrogance, and idiocy are too numerous in those organizations to even begin recounting here.  And, unfortunately, this has become true of our flag officer corps, with many redundant or unnecessary commands and offices being created to give them “something to command.”  Moreover, many of them, once they remove the uniform, parlay their “service” into parasitic jobs in the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.  Many of the jobs in this sector are unnecessary jobs that suck down taxpayer dollars for little returned value as the high-ranking good-old-boy network lavishes the largess on themselves and their friends. 

So, the “service” of such people is not like the humble service of lower-ranking officers or of non-commissioned officers and common troops.  Service for these men and women is still very humble and still very sacrificial.  They do not have people bowing and scraping and sycophantically hanging on their every word or scurrying about to fulfill their every wish.  These men and women, America’s sons and daughters, work hard at many thankless jobs and serve without fan-fare and without very much in return except the satisfaction that they have served their country honorably.  You will not see many of their names on bases and buildings and streets unless they have done something extraordinary that catches the attention of a larger group within the military, sometimes sacrificial service up to and including their lives.  They just serve quite ordinary stints with their sacrifices only being known to a few, occasionally getting recognition in events such as this parade in Texas where tragedy struck.  I call it ordinary, but the service of these people deserves great honor and respect by the rest of America. 

Many return to civilian lives without great fanfare and numerous honors, maybe never even speaking of their service, not wanting to sully the honor of it by using it for egotistical gain.  And the attitude behind their service becomes a life-style as they become sacrificial servants within their communities, homes, and workplaces.  Not that these are perfect men and women.  No human being is perfect.  But their service comes at great cost to them and even their loved-ones in many cases, with the physical and psychological wounds or the wear and tear on their bodies from rough conditions and hard hours lasting many years past the boundaries of their time in the military.  It is because of this attitude of service that I was touched by the story of one of the veterans in the Texas parade tragedy.  But I was not surprised.  At the very last moment of his life, Army Sergeant Joshua Michael made the one last act of sacrificial service, not even thinking of himself all the way up to the end, and pushed his wife out of the way, saving her life and guaranteeing the end of his own.  This is why I think that God must love soldiers, and by this, I mean to include all services.  They follow in the footsteps of Jesus in the way they live their lives and in the character of their hearts.  Surely greater love has no man than this. 

 


Comments

04/15/2016 12:11am

I read the both stories they were good. Army services are tuff job of life but full of with joys and skills after that experience any one can do any jobs in the world because he learned the true sacrifice lesson during the all-time of the job.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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