A New Generation

My son is fascinated with the military. The uniforms, the weaponry and the concept; he has been since a young age. He has always said he wants to grow up and join the military even though both of us, his parents, say we do not want him to. His concepts of the military come from video games, movies and media coverage, all which in one form or another glorify the military.

I am ex-military and I am against my son joining an organization that I voluntarily joined myself and continue to support to this day. Bluntly I do not want my son to become like me.

I joined the military in the late eighties to get out of my home town; to make it possible for me to marry my girlfriend and support her. I was a troubled teen that was a loner for the most part with social skills that were lacking. The military gave me a new social circle that instantly accepted me and called me one of its own.

I was one of the last cycles to go through “old school” basic training. I was bussed into Harmony Church, Ft. Benning, GA on a hot muggy autumn day. As I stepped off the bus a couple of drill sergeants immediately descended on me screaming at me to get off the bus and to get into formation. They continued their verbal tirade against me that was heavily laced with profanity, attacking my physical attributes my genetics and my questionable heritage. I was ordered to do pushups, sit ups and flutter kicks. I was told to get up then to immediately get back down only to be told to get back up and run in place. This went on for what seem like an eternity but in actuality lasted about twenty to thirty minutes.

This behavior was called a “shark attack” approach, strike quick and fast while keeping the new recruits unbalanced and in a state of confusion/terror. From that point on the drill sergeants were constantly physically mentally and verbally “abusive” with us. They pushed us to our limits on all fronts and broke us only to rebuild us into a military fighting man. Our concepts of right and wrong were restructured, our morals and ethics were retaught to align with that of the service and everything about us was brought in line in order to make us part of the most effective fighting force the world knows today. Three months of the constant barrage from the drill sergeants changed us all from confused scared kids stepping off a bus into inexperienced but well trained warriors.

indoctrination ~ noun ~ the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view

It is also called brainwashing. But this is exactly what is used on our soldiers in order to create an effective military member. It makes so when we are faced with a high stressed situation we start operating the way we were trained to operate. We see things in a different light that our civilian counter parts. We become removed from the social concepts that could otherwise hamper us from accomplishing the mission.

You can take the man (or woman) out of the military but you cannot take the military out of the man (or woman)…

I use to hear this saying when I was growing up because I come from a military family but I never understood it. After I left the military I kind of understood it and twenty years later I fully understand it. I may have left the military but the indoctrination I was subjected to will never leave me. I still continue to see things differently from those who have never been exposed to the military. I do not see shades of gray, I see in black and white. I still tend to shut down emotionally and switch to a very precise well oiled mode of operation when faced with high stress. I thrive under pressure. I am detached from my emotions, being able to shut them down at will.

Twenty years later and I have no doubt in my mind that I could pick up a rifle and do what I was trained to do oh so long ago.

I do not know how it is for other veterans but I have come to the realization that I am different from the society I live in. I find social situations harder, I find dealing with the drama of a corporate workplace almost unbearable and I find having friends almost impossible. I have very high standards about loyalty and support that I expect from my interaction of people that I am constantly disappointed when people fail to meet those standards.

As I have gotten older I have realized that the template I use for my life, my morals and my ethics are based upon the core indoctrination I received from the military.

Friends are always there and they have your back, they are willing to take a bullet for you if needed (your battle buddies are always there covering your movements and willing to die defending you)

Work hard and you will be rewarded (work hard and you will receive promotions, awards and passes)

I could go on and on but why? The point is the military rewired the way I think and here it is twenty years later and it is still just as strong as ever. I went out to play paintball with my son a couple of weeks ago. Nothing serious but all in good fun. I stepped onto a huge field filled with debris where the average age of the players was 17 -19 years old. I have not done anything active in years so I am old fat and out of shape. The refs put us in our starting areas and tell us to wait for the whistle.

Soon as it was blown, game or not I had a weapon in my hands. Training I have not used in twenty years kicks in and I am moving for cover. As soon as I achieve cover I am scanning my fields of fire for movement and setting up over watch as team mates move forward. Soon as they are in position and I can see they are looking around I rush forward to my next place of cover……

Nine rounds for the day. Out of those nine rounds, I was tagged three times. In return I tagged between seven to eleven opponents. The very last round I was the last man standing against multiple opposition and it took them almost ten minutes to take me down even though they had me pinned down. Boy did I hurt over the next couple of days but I would have made my drill sergeants, squad leaders, platoon sergeants and other various leaders proud of how I handled myself kicking ass and taking names.

I will be military till the day I die. It colors and effects how I view my world and how I interact with my environment. It sets me apart from my social peers in a way that I do not find enjoyable. I will never be able to stand down from this way of thought.

This is why I do not want my son to join the military. I want him to live a normal carefree life and I do not want to see the carefree comedian that is my son disappears. While he might continue to joke if he joined I can guarantee that it won’t be as easily or as carefree anymore. And if he were to get sent into a conflict situation, I would hate to see that side of him killed off entirely to be replaced by a man with a thousand mile stare….

Then there is the chance that I could just plan lose my son to a conflict like too many parents have done during the last ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is my only son and part of my legacy. Call it selfish but I want to see my bloodline continue. I cringe at the thought of that blood tracing a line into the soil of a distant land as he bleeds out over a cause that could have been avoided.

Bottom line is I want my son to avoid becoming anything like me.

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