Facts and Misconceptions about what is a Wounded Warrior.

Approximately what percentage of veterans have a service level disability?

USMC Cpl. Raymond Hennagir looks to pass the ball, during a wounded warriors practice inside the Karen Wagner Sports Center at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to prepare for the Warrior Games.  For The News & Messenger
USMC Cpl. Raymond Hennagir looks to pass the ball, during a wounded warriors practice inside the Karen Wagner Sports Center at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to prepare for the Warrior Games. For The News & Messenger

It’s really high, but not for the obvious reasons people suspect. The reason for this isn’t because we all suffered from some car bombing, like a few of the warriors pictured above. Those numbers are actually quite low relatively speaking. The reason is more connected with day-to-day type work environment disabilities. For most, it is simply the chronic bodily maltreatment over the course several years in the military.

Take my example. I am about as average as a Marine deployed to Iraq probably gets. I am not yet thirty, but I have to see a chiropractor regularly like I was fifty. My back issues started literally weeks after my second deployment to Iraq. We traced the cause to wearing an eighty pound flak jacket, supported entirely on my shoulders, for eight hours a day, seven days a week. Turns out, in the bullet proof vest industry, you have to have a balance between ergonomics and ballistic protection. In a risk/reward scenario, I prefer back pain. That injury rated me 10% service connected disability.

Another one came from hearing damage I suffered from being a rifle and pistol coach for two years, literally standing inches from weapons going off all day. We had hearing protection, but there is only so much the 25 cent softies can do.

That is realistically what happens to most of the military injured. The jobs are just hard on the body. That isn’t to say that all people are as lucky as I was. The records are very clear in that in the wars, so far, there have been 6,845 dead, and 52,300 wounded. That being said, what doesn’t help anyone is the almost criminal misrepresentation by news agencies such as the Huffington post, making numerous posts saying that because of injuries like this, a million troops are now counted as “wounded from combat” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Huffington has taken an extremely liberal definition of the word “wounded” by misquoting this definition from the International Business times:

“All that can be said with any certainty is that as of last December more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics since returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

VA Stops Releasing Data On Injured Vets As Total Reaches Grim Milestone [EXCLUSIVE]

To be clear, if I were to break my leg tomorrow for something that happened six years after leaving the military, and go to a VA hospital to see if there is anything they could do to help me, I could count in this number. However, in the Huffington Post article: 6,845 Americans Died and 900,000 Were Injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Say ‘No’ to Obama’s War., an article with the seemingly intended purpose of arguing against intervention against the ISIS ( the Islamic terrorist nation and their murderous tirade through the Middle East) based on half truths and misinformation. The writer, H. A. Goodman, blatantly links this figure of 900,000 wounded with the Pentagon quote that more than half to two-thirds of Americans killed or wounded in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been victims of IED explosions” implying that upwards of 400,000 to 600,000 people were wounded by roadside bombings. Being that the actual figure of people wounded by roadside bombs is somewhere closer to maybe 20,000, as a veteran, I’m appalled by the way Huffington Post is misrepresenting us.

The reason for this rant on the HP is because they are doing a severe disservice to actual veterans by misrepresenting what is going on with us through their politically agenda layden postings. In other articles, they’ve expounded on this figure, stating that everything from a single episode of dizziness to actually being shot counts as being “wounded in action”. Meanwhile, public perception of ailments such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) has turned into something that makes people so aware of the problem, that instead of understanding the diseases and the realistic numbers behind them, people just assume we are all broken from the neck up. Also, being that somewhere around only two million deployments of individuals occurred in either Iraq or Afghanistan, this 1 million wounded number that keeps being brought up gives the illusion that fully half of all veterans nearly died or are seriously messed up from going to Iraq or Afghanistan. Since these veterans, in reality, faced less than a 1% chance of ever being injured in the war, it doesn’t help me if I go in for a job and have to face the silent prejudice of “probably has PTSD” because of poor reporting like this. This is the disservice that selective, agenda based reporting like this is doing.

Shame on you Huffington Post. Be better.


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Why do People Like Full Metal Jacket So Much?

The first time I watched Full Metal Jacket, I was in a tent in Kuwait on my computer, waiting for a plane to take me to Iraq for the next seven months. As a Marine, I felt like it was one of those movies I was supposed to have seen by this point, and the lull directly before going off to war seemed like a good time to do it. It left me very confused, in part, because the movie is famous for it’s actual depiction of war and warriors, but also because it was so very, very incorrect with my own experiences of being a Marine. It was only years later that I began to realize exactly why so much of the movie seemed off to me. It wasn’t a movie about warriors or even about a war; it was a movie trying to make a point, which stuck with the film’s target audience.

Full Metal Jacket was a movie for people who would never see war. It’s an anti-war movie about Vietnam where absolutely every element of war, warriors, the whole military experience, is shown as being something terrible, dehumanizing, and a pointless endeavour to detriment of all mankind. In 1987 at the film’s debut, it was it was exactly what people wanted to see from a war movie, because that narrative held true for millions of people.

FMJ does many things differently than most other war movies, namely because of the time period it was filmed in. If we look at different eras of the genre we see very different themes. Look at the John Wayne “Sands of Iwo Jima” or anything staring Audie Murphy, especially the one where he played himself, and you will probably be left with a very different feeling than if you were to watch something like Platoon, or even American Sniper. The early era focused on the heroism and unfortunate necessity of war due to the incontributable existence of evil in this world. They depicted warriors as heroes and the world as black and white.

Following this, the second major era attempts to break that in a sort of genre revolt. War movies began showcases war as a pointless affair, having no meaning than to make people suffer, both the participants and the victims. They go further into personifying the warriors, namely our own, as being universally deeply flawed to the point of being the villains, in efforts to make the genre more “realistic” and gritty. It’s noteworthy to also point out that this was the point when war movies were no longer being made by military veterans, and veterans were consulted less and less often in ensuring accurate tellings of their stories. Many stories from this period don’t even depict actual events, but only place them within actual time periods, such as the Battle of Hue City. Perhaps this was due to peace activists not involved in the war taking up degrees in liberal arts and film and entertainment. I can only really guess as to why the dramatic shift in war movies, around this time.

The third (the modern era) which I will say started around Saving Private Ryan, is the war epic. Your Black Hawk Downs, American Snipers, even the detestable Hurt Lockers, fall into this category. During that era, all war movies center around 1) Paying at least token respect to the individual troops, while 2) ironically showcasing each as deeply flawed because of the war, and 3) never given credibility to how war may benefit anyone (such as the Jewish people in Germany, the liberated France, or the empowered Kurds of Iraq). Modern war movies are themselves inheriting a stance of only being allowed to say something along the lines of “war is bad” and never veering from that rhetoric, while not socially being allowed to showcase the warriors as the deranged, murderous, barbarians depicted in Kubrick’s film. I guess that’s an improvement. This may be because in the modern era people felt more vulnerable after 9/11 and no longer accepted this view of veterans. It may be that more veterans have more social power to influence the way they are viewed via Social Media, as I am doing now. All that I can say for sure, is that something happened that broke from the way that second era war movies showcased us, from the way modern era movies do.

Having said that, no era is perfectly honest in their depiction of the military or of war. Take for example Black Hawk Down. I liked the movie, but it is filled with much of the spectral of the era while itself being the cinematic telling of one of the greatest modern military research projects in history. To make my point, my favorite line was when one soldier is given an order by a commanding officer, and replies, “But Sir, I’m wounded.” and the Officer replies back nonchalantly, “Everybody’s wounded.” I loved that line, but nothing like it happened in the book, which like I said, is one of the most factual retellings of events in modern history there is, so much so that the Army and Marine Corps, have adopted it as part of their reading programs for all non-commissioned and commissioned officers. All that to say, dramatic license for some is embellishment, for others, outright fiction and rarely is it priority to get the story right for history’s sake.

The honest truth is that all three, the military, war, and the individual warriors are extremely complex, but that complexity is too much for the average movie goer to be entertained by in only a two hour sitting. It is far easier to think of the average warrior as either a faceless bad guy, or a broken human because war is so bad, or keep overall ideas simple “War=bad, peace=good” and all things relating to one or the other falling into only one of those two categories. We’ve been made to think that war is some unsurvivable event, either physically or psychologically and that no normal person would be able to endure it, much less that some may see war as necessary and gain satisfaction from being part of one because they know their efforts provided some measure of good to others. (This sentiment in films correlates with the start of the Vietnam War and the end of the first era of war movies). Now, it is very hard for moviegoers to accept a purely heroic, purely rational, purely normal war hero figure because to do that they have to think of him as an average person, like us, who goes for a little while to do something important, unpleasant or not, and then going home to be normal again. Movies like that first present a false view of war and warriors based on stereotypes and tropes, one filled only with suffering and atrocities and with no good reason motivating thousands of rational people at all, then disturbs viewers a second way by making them uncomfortable with the thought, “Could I do those terrible things?” People don’t like that. They don’t want to identify with the common warrior that most of these movies depict. Part of them feels like the bad guy. This was the era in which Full Metal Jacket made its debut.

Having said all this, we can start to get into our conversation on Full Metal Jacket itself.

Full Metal Jacket is the perfect film to showcase second era war movies and the values they were meant to communicate. I am not saying that Kubrick told the truth in the least with the film, nor am I saying his goal was to try to lie to viewers. I think he is just trying to sell movies. He has to make a movie that doesn’t lead viewers into his way of thinking, whatever that may have been, but plays into their already existing biases and beliefs. That is how they identify with characters they know so little about and how they become emotionally involved. Movies don’t make money by correcting people’s notion of how the world really is. They make money by amplifying their beliefs to the point that viewers will tell their friends, “This is the truest thing in history of things and if you don’t watch it, you’re an idiot.” In 1987, no one was viewed anything that happened in the Vietnam War as anything similiar to WWII and the general consensus was that there was no point to it at all. With a legacy such as My Lai and the many thousands for a war more than 13 times more than were lost in Iraq, people wanted nothing to do with a “Sands of Iwo Jima” film depicting anything favorable about Vietnam, a heroic film depicting the period well wasn’t the type of movie that would have reached audiences. They were tired of the Cold War (which hadn’t yet ended) and had no sense that anything since 1945 having had any real value. Boil it all down, and FMJ depicts that belief. Note that it might not tell the truth that well, but it perfectly captures the mentality of the people of the time.

Take a look at the film’s hero/victim/protagonist, Pvt. J.T. ‘Joker’ Davis. He is symbolic on many levels which are meaningful to the time in which FMJ debuted. From before he is physically even seen on the screen, he is shown as a rebel, during the iconic introduction of the Drill Instructor played to near perfection by an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor, R. Lee Ernie, where he outright mocks the Drill Instructor to devastating results. From that moment on, we sympathise with the character who obviously doesn’t belong here. Throughout the movie he is portrayed as not fitting in. He stands out from the brutish, womanizing, cruel or ignorant Marines, as most of them are depicted in the film. Davis instead is an intellectual, symbolized by the non-military regulation eyeglasses and the fact that his Military Occupational Specialty wasn’t infantry, but as a writer. He both stands for intelligence as well as truth, morally setting him above and opposed to the rest of the other “lower” infantrymen. Once he actually does deploy, he stands out as a continued rebel (remember he is morally and intellectually superior to all the other troops) by brandishing proudly the “Born to Kill” label sarcastically graffitied on his helmet and a peace sign on his flak jacket. Given that during the 70’s the symbol had more to do an anti-military sentiments than actual peace, Joker was Stanley Kubrick’s very deliberate attempt to make viewers see the character as being little more than the only rational, non-barbarian militant in the show, who is more a victim of circumstance than someone who wants to be a part of the war at all. All this combines to help viewers of a certain ilk, Kubrick’s target audience, identify with what the protagonist’s presumed views of what the war should be, when really, the truth is that the protagonist was written to personify the average viewer’s perception: “This is barbaric, this is senseless, this is wrong.”

Looking at the rest of the movie and you see a series of messages tailored for a moment in time, and that subgroup of Americans in 1987.

“War will utterly destroy the minds of good and innocent people.” Private Pyle was, to me, the worst part of the best part of the movie. He was over the top in personal treatment in how troops are treated in training, and major elements of his plot could not possibly have happened exactly because of the fate he met in the most acclaimed scene of the movie. Regardless, while the depiction of boot camp was novel for all war movies before or since, Pyle’s presence detracted from the film in a way that, for me, was little more than over the top sensationalism.

“War creates barbarism in American Warfighters where murdering innocent people is acceptable.” I’ve honestly never been able to deal with this scene, given what I have known and experienced in countless hours on the law of war, code of conduct, rules of engagement, and escalation of force training during my own time in the Marines. Honestly try to watch this scene and imagine your nephew or neighbor down the street being this evil, and also try to imagine everyone in the military just looking the other way as it happened.

Then there is the theme that “incoming warriors can only degrade the population of a region through their corruption and immorality.”

And finally, that the enemy that has been causing us so much harm is a much more impotent, underwhelming force than we had ever imagined, personified by nothing less than a little girl, making the American military machine appear, in retrospect to be the bullies and the aggressors.

Rob Ager, a Youtuber who has made a side profession of analyzing films, has even made a very potent argument for the numerous ways in Kubrick used metaphor to convey how military indoctrination forces young men into becoming rapists and killers through psychological rewiring of mind’s inner workings.

“Kubrick is acknowledging the universal truth about military brainwashing, soldiers who can’t be turned into brutal psychopaths by their Drill Instructors, can certainly be persuaded in the battlefields by the overbearing peer pressure of their lesser minded friends.”

If you’re curious, I must add at this point before watching, that the training that the Ager’s analysis and Kubrick’s film depict taking place in the first half of the FMJ, which is necessary for the following analysis and FMJ’s second half narrative to make sense, was nothing like what I experienced in Marine Corps boot camp. We never named our rifles girl’s names, we never slept with our rifles, there were no sexual connotations with them and the “This is my rifle, this is my gun” thing was never uttered in my tenure either. As a Marine Corps rifle instructor, I never even met anyone could explain to me what that meant. One can’t know if boot camp has changed and my experience is just because of reforms, or simply that Kubrick took a great deal more dramatic license than seems in hindsight unjustifiable.

In the end, Kubrick’s film does one thing exceptionally well, it tells the story many people wanted to believe to be the way it was. Was Vietnam hard? Yes, it was. Was it traumatic for many? Yes, it was. Was boot camp filled with mind altering psychopath building brainwashing? Umm… No. What Kubrick’s piece on Vietnam was can simply be called propaganda. It wasn’t the type of propaganda that encourages youth to join up or to make people support a war of one kind or another. It was quite the opposite, but still propoganda. It was a war film that used just as many inaccuracies to promote all the values of the anti-war movement prominent in the late sixties and early seventies and into the eighties, as the Nazi half truth films depicting the virtues of the German Third Reich. That said, it was filled with all the spectacle that makes a war movie entertaining, right down to the incredibly odd and ill fitting Mickey Mouse Club ending to the film.

So, to answer the big question, why did so many people like it? If I really had to guess, I would say it is because the movie boils down into under two hours everything they already believed about war. It supports their stereotypes, reenforces their biases, and conveys a message they have already accepted in their hearts and which society has generally accepted to be true, whether it actually is or not. When you stumble on something that so many people agree with, though few have experienced first hand, and which you yourself find inline with your own beliefs, you tend to declare it as the greatest thing ever made. I don’t know a lot of veterans who think that the Full Metal Jacket is the greatest movie ever made. Everyone laughs at the first half because, frankly, we all had scary drill instructors. Beyond that, I don’t agree that this is a very good film. It’s great propaganda for a certain viewpoint, or at best, a very good story about one very fictitious man’s journey, which unfortunately ended up misrepresenting the factual experiences of a whole generation of warfighters. That being the case, it really doesn’t surprise me that a democratic ranking forum would skew the results of an OK movie, when it has many moral and political undertones not obvious to many viewers.


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4 Lessons From the First 5 Minutes of Boot Camp

From the first moment you arrive at a Marine Corps Recruit Depot, you are neck deep in the ceremonialized terror that is the way of life within the United States Marine Corps. When recruits’ feet hit the ground, before even they leave the bus, they are psychologically shaken and immediately introduced to what will become their routine and what their expectations will be. While I’d like to discuss what this would be like, words fail to communicate what a proper demonstration would make clearer. Below is a video showing exactly what it is like for every recruit before they even get off the bus at the Recruit Depot.

After you’ve seen it, there are some points I’d like you to take away from the experience, and maybe to review the video once you know what you’re seeing.

  1. Everything the drill instructor does has a purpose; everything. Every word the drill instructor is saying is memorized. Notice the precision of language, the directness of orders and instructions, and the brevity of communicating complex instructions. At first glance you would probably view the video either as one of the recruits, frightening overwhelmed, or you may view it as a comical charade. It may seem funny to you, it may seem terrible to you, but every word has been rehearsed to provide some crucial and instructional value in some way.
  2. The recruits are being yelled at before they ever set foot off the bus. This is a unique welcoming ritual, rare in even military circles. You can hear this if you begin listening immediately. It lets recruits know immediately who is command and wastes no time with allowing them to wander aimlessly and confused. They receive clear instruction directing their actions before even arriving.
  3. Within 5 minutes, 100 individuals with no group training at all have been trained by drill instructions on how to:Listen and learn while at bootcamp. (Not as obvious as you may think)
    Respond to instruction. (Like everything, there are rules to this)
    Stand in formation. (Also not as self as self explanatory as one might believe)
    Move as a unit. (The Yellow Footprints help with this considerably)
    They have also all been read their rights and responsibilities as recruits, which they listened to silently, then in a speedy and organized manner, filed to a different area. Unless you have ever had the extreme misfortune of dealing with large numbers of teenage boys, you will not appreciate the magnitude of this accomplishment.
  4. This is a ceremony that has taken place every week for every new group of recruits for decades. Regardless of technology and the passage of time, it has remained the same throughout. It is very well rehearsed and very well engineered to be important enough to be fit into the first five minutes of Marine Corps boot camp. As I said before, everything a Drill Instructor does has purpose.

The Yellow Footprints, as they’re known by Marines, are more than just placeholders. They symbolize breaking into a new world much more than they serve to instruct recruits were to stand. Every Marine remembers that moment, those first 5 minutes at the depot and for good reason. They are their own rite of passage and a binding element to Marines across generations, knowing how similar the experience is for so many. It would be good at this point to review the video and realize the power the first 5 minutes have with which to open the eyes of a youth about to enter training. It’s an experience which instantaneously sets the pace for training for what’s to come and makes it clear that no nonsense will be accepted. What’s more? There are three more months of this, and, as I will describe later, it gets much worse.

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3 Misconceptions of Boot Camp

Before moving on, a few assumptions have to be put down along with a few myths about boot camp and the experience.

Movies about the military shape our knowledge and understanding of military life far more than do the testimony of most veterans. This is why so many of the assumptions surrounding the way we live are so drastically wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Full Metal Jacket is a classic, but there is much that needs to be corrected, if not for being entirely inaccurate, than for being dated. Because of movie legends, many ideas have permeated that leave regular people not really aware of what to expect. Beyond that, a lot of veterans don’t help very much either. Vets have one thing in common – over time, our stories get better. For many who served during times of peace, boot camp is pretty much all they had to talk about. Their exaggerations (we’re guilty of it somewhere) left a few more false legends that need to be corrected in those who want to know the truth. Then, of course, there are those people who simply lie about their military service altogether, and oh the stories they can tell. If for nothing else than the horde of pretenders, I’d like to list a few of the more common misconceptions that have been asked to me before and attempt to set the record straight there first before moving one.

  1. Is boot camp hard because recruits need the skills they learn to fight and survive in war?

    Boot camp isn’t really about the skills you acquire. Cracked.com had a good article in 2011 that read very accurately:

    I’ll be blunt: Everything about boot camp in movies is wrong. At least, it’s wrong today. What you find out in boot camp is that the heart of military life isn’t killing bad guys, fulfilling your potential or being all you can be. It’s uniform inspections.

    Yes, there are many important things you learn. The shooting is an important part. In some branches, boot camp is the only time you will ever fire a weapon. Learning to march is somewhat important, though you aren’t sure why. The swimming… well that is just awful. If we think about it, we haven’t fought in a non-desert in how long? I’m sure we will someday, perhaps… but the training is not about the skills. The high order tactics used in modern combat are too complex to be pushed down on recruits who barely know how to take the weapon off Safe. In all honesty, most recruits are too stressed, exhausted, and scatterbrained to actually learn anything in depth anyway.

    A much better environment would be a college or a school house. Later on, they will receive actual training in their military roles. For Marines, this is MOS school, and later on they will attend other specialized trainings in preparation for deployments. This will be where they gain skills. As I said though, boot camp is not about school. It prepares you for military life, the order of things, the customs and courtesies, and what will be expected. It is very intense, but all the skills someone needs to know for an actual war won’t be learned from boot camp.

  2. Is it because the recruits will go through Hell together when they get to war?

    Recruits do not go through Hell together, unless you consider boot camp itself Hell. It isn’t. It’s just training and there is a massive team there to make sure you stay alive, and well. You probably won’t enjoy it like Spring Break in Palm Beach, but it is far from Hell once you get used to it. A major false assumption is that the recruits will stay together for the rest of their military career, that later on they all move on to the infantry together and deploy to war with each other. That isn’t how it works and logically, why would it? The military takes all kinds. We need people who can man the radio, manage the fuel for jets, and shoot the boom sticks. How could these people all stay together when specialized training is required to make each of them specialists in warfare? After boot camp they will leave each other and go to different trainings and then on to their actual military occupational specialty schools, separately. This was mentioned in the last section as what happens after boot camp. Three months to a year after all the recruits leave one another, after all their actual skills training is done, they will join their real unit. These units are all over the world and have many different missions. This is the unit they will be a part of when they go on deployments and who they will go through war with, if they go through war at all. They are just filling a hole from someone else who has left, most likely not from being killed, as the movies would tell you, but from getting moved to a different unit or from being honorably discharged from the service. You will likely see only a few of the guys you went to boot camp with a few more times in your life, by chance, when you run into eachother buying milk at the PX on Mainside. Those who go through boot camp, won’t go through “Hell” together.

  3. Is it true that Drill Instructors beat and berate their recruits to make them harder?

    Drill Instructors/Drill Sergeants don’t physically touch recruits. They don’t hit or physically assault recruits, ever. They come close as the pictures show, but they never physically brutalize potential Marines. There seems to be an odd rule about just getting close enough for the campaign cover to touch. This is drastically foreign to most people’s conceptions, but the Marines use advanced enough training methods to not need to physically or psychologically harm their recruits in the process of making them Marines. They also never take part in racial, ethnic, or sexually derogatory slander. I was recently made aware of a certain Gawker post, where it was said that Drill Instructors call their recruits faggots and other racial slurs “… like 50 times a day.” I’ll say this, the article had many, many inconsistencies leaving me to doubt completely that it was real at all. That said, it exists and now people like me have to say you shouldn’t always believe everything you hear on the internet.

    I remember that I was actually surprised by the absence of it. It was as if they had all been coached into exactly what they were and were not allowed to do. Instead, there was a sort of “fake swearing” that existed, where everyone used in positions of authority used words like “Freak” rather than certain four letter words you might have expected. It was even odd in some places, “Mother-freaking?” but I almost never heard actual cursing and never anything that sounded like sexual or racial insults. Well, there was this joke about no races existing in the Marine Corps, just dark green and light green Marines. It seemed like a poor attempt at promoting some version of racial equality in the ranks, but it was pretty funny, none the less.

    If you think about it, there is a real reason why DI’s don’t engage in this sort of thing, beyond just altruism and the tender love that they have for their recruits. A lot of recruits are still pretty much children and their parents are still pretty mothery. They haven’t fully embraced the idea that this place is preparing their children for war, and not just a summer camp. Having said that, many of the Drill Instructors understand that every letter that a recruit writes home could find itself echoed in an email to some Senator somewhere weeks or months later. For that reason, most of the completely unjustifiable aggression has been weeded out of the boot camp process, leaving only the type of aggressive behaviors one might expect as being necessary with the type of mission of the Marines have. This was at least true in 2004 when I attended it and I doubt very much has changed the logic behind it.

Continue on to 4 Lessons From the First 5 Minutes of Boot Camp or Read the Full Series.

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Why does boot camp need to be so intense?

The fundamental question to why good military boot camps are so intensive is “what rationale is there for the severe treatment and methods they use?” This has an extremely simple answer, and one which explains the mission, and the extreme nature behind why boot camp is one of the one places in peaceful society where such extremes are allowed, and in fact, needed.

The reason that boot camp exists is that our society has to train 18 year olds to run to the sound of gunfire and perform under fire and the threat of death.

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The fundamental purpose of boot camp, to prepare young people to become warriors and, perhaps, to put themselves into situations and locations where they could become injured or even lose their lives, defies all personal “logic” and goes against all human instinct. For his reason, it takes one of the most intensive acts of psychological reprogramming (boot camp) to overcome the society driven desires for self-preservation and self-satisfaction that are the hallmarks of peaceful societies built on the virtues of democracies and liberalism. Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall, in his book Men Against Fire, described well the fundamental flaw which must be overcome by a warrior society which is itself, borne from a society where violence is not understood and, in fact, looked down upon:

” The army … must reckon with the fact that he comes from a civilization in which aggression, connected with the taking of life, is prohibited and unacceptable. The teaching and ideals of that civilization are against killing, against taking advantage. The fear of aggression has been expressed to him so strongly and absorbed by him so deeply and pervadingly–practically with his mother’s milk–that it is part of the normal man’s emotional make up. This is his greatest handicap when he enters combat. It stays his trigger-finger even though he is hardly conscious that it is a restraint upon him.”

One enters America, whether by birth or by boat, with the ingrained belief that they will be free to prosper and grow to the limits of their personal achievement, free to express themselves, free to believe as they wish, and free from persecution for any of this. It goes without saying, and often isn’t said enough, that this prosperity and personal freedom isn’t guaranteed, but requires certain members of the society to, in as many ways imaginable, temporarily abandon their freedoms, many of their liberties, and rarely though realistically, even their lives, so that all others may continue to experience the boundless peace and prosperities life in America provides. In viewing this, many would argue that boot camp itself is the antithesis of the American Experience; it forces individuals to become, on the surface, indistinct and to act and think as a unit; it disallows those who subject themselves to it to a life where they don’t get to choose where they live, what they do with their lives, or even if they are put in the line of danger;it forces non-violent children into becoming violent men. More so than this, it molds them to embrace this personal sacrifice.

Those who have experienced it, however, know that these and other beliefs on boot camp are fallacy. There is, in all good bodies of humanity, the apprehension towards aggression, but there is also the supreme need to ensure survival. While the desire for passivity is a noble pursuit and peaceful wish, it is reliant on “rough men.” As George Orwell stated in the nightfall of World War II. “Those who ‘abjure’ violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf.”

You need to imagine what is expected of someone who goes there. In modern warfare you have people too young to legally buy a beer fighting the wars that we go through year after year. Boot camp is designed to reprogram civilians and those closer to childhood than to being adults into warriors. They are expected to be those that commit violence in the name of others.This is a very hard thing to do. Boot camp places within them a sense that they are expected to do important things, far more important things than could be expected from other 18 year olds. All this happens during one of the most intensely stressful periods of a young person’s life, where they are isolated from contact from family and friends and can’t lean on their comfort for support. Here they must make the transition from a person of no real value to society, to one of great martial prowess and symbolic meaning, as well as a very real threat to those who would endanger their nation.

To do that very act, however, we need a form of psychological training that is able to forge individuals who can achieve the act. That is why boot camp has evolved to become such a potent tool in today’s military machine. The psychological transformation of boot camp is extremely intense and an intentional effort by the Marine Corps to make warriors able to fight and kill from a stock of peaceful children who have just barely left high school. Realistically, this has been a practice for centuries. The need for warriors and the nature of who has done the fighting has changed little and likely won’t change in any near future. Drones, stealth, atomic warfare, and high-tech weaponry haven’t changed this and likely won’t in the near future, either. There will always be the need for young men who are willing and able to run to the sound of imminent danger and many, to their death. Nations need this. You, reading this now, need this. It is a horrible thing, but the sanctity and security of every nation on Earth requires young men and women capable of doing this – running to the sound of gunfire and perform under fire and the threat of death so that they may commit violence on our behalf.

Continue on to the 3 Misconceptions of Boot Camp

Read the full story.

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Memorial Day is Too Depressing. Efforts Now Underway to Make it Fun Again.

To combat a recent downturn to consumer spending and overall citizen satisfaction surrounding the late May holiday season, the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization has been working round the clock to figure out how to get folks back at the malls this Memorial Day and back on the lakes with overpriced boat rentals celebrating again as usual.

We met up with one such potential shopper, a teenager, avoiding the mall and instead, on her way to visit a local cemetery.

“Well, it’s important, you know? I mean, I used to go hang out and party and all, but then I read this thing that Memorial Day is actually about remembering soldiers who died and stuff and I just didn’t feel like partying anymore. Now, my friends and I go with those old guys from the Legion to put flags out and they tell stories to us and stuff.”

“It’s a major problem.” Says one local mother.

“I didn’t raise my kids to spend their whole lives thinking about things that make people sad and that I nobody really understands anyway. I mean, I know service people do stuff that is important and all, and that we should thank them for it, I guess, but they already get Veteran’s Day right? Isn’t it a bit selfish that we should give them a second day too?

Look, the wars are all over right? I mean we defeated the terrorists didn’t we? So it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. I just want my kids to be happy and not worry about sad things that don’t matter anymore. Isn’t that what every mother wants, for her kids to be happy?

Online activists are also going on the offensive, fighting back against the attack on their favorite Summer day off from work. They’ve taken to social media to showcase their disdain towards the desecration of what they say the spirit of the holiday is all about.

“I personally don’t support war. I’m a pacifist. I think people who like war are just stupid. Don’t they know that war kills people and stuff? That’s why I think we should just stop glorifying soldiers and war with their own holidays. That’s why I want to see Memorial Day go back to what it was, about peace and happiness with friends. That’s something we should remember, right? I mean, aren’t I right?

Besides that, what exactly are all those kids doing with all those old men and war vets at cemeteries? Don’t they all have PTSD and stuff? Is that even safe? Doesn’t that sound creepy to you? It sounds like some weird death cult. Do we want our kids to be allowed to join a militant death cult? I mean, how much of this are we going to allow?

Relatedly, the sudden onset of awareness has had a drastic downturn in consumer participation in recent years. This is mostly thought to be due to bloggers and individuals sharing stories about their thoughts over social media, careless to the ramifications. In response to this devastating turn of events one local department store chain manager offered this response..

You know the annual Memorial Day Madness sale used to be one of our biggest days, next to Thanksgiving, I mean, Black Friday. This year, though, we’ve spent loads on marketing and even tried to hired some real soldiers to serve as models and to hold signs to get people to come shop with us. We’ve put a lot into making sure to hire veterans, you know. But none of it was working, so we had to resort to dressing our employees up in holiday camo as well, to help encourage more shoppers. All of it has just done nothing to help our sales. All the customers just aren’t coming to the malls anymore. They are all off sitting alone in quiet meditation, being thankful for what they have, like freedom and opportunity. That is exactly what we don’t want. How is anyone supposed to sell people on things they need like clothes and TVs when they are busy being thankful for things that are basically for free?

The issue of consumer apathy has grown so out of hand, the President of the United States, himself, has even weighed in, giving a special speech on this rain soaked afternoon.

I, ah, just want to begin with saying that I deeply respect all the troops out there and their families. That’s why I want to start off today by thanking all the troops and their families for that effort. Today is dedicated to you and America hopes you enjoy it.

That said, ah, it’s also come to my attention that a lot of people are upset that so many young men and women have died fighting in American wars. I can understand this. After a recent golfing trip, I recently read a report that said that over the last fourteen years, we, as Americans, have lost something like six or seven thousand service people, the largest number since any American war since Vietnam.

Now, I know that I didn’t serve myself, but believe me that no one has more respect for these people than me. Now, understand this, I’ve known many a veteran, particularly since taking office, and from them, I feel I can safely say this: abandoning our cherished traditions is not what these proud warriors would want. They wouldn’t want you to mourn their deaths; they would would want all of us to celebrate by getting out and enjoying life and encouraging our local economies with our business. That’s why I’ve given my support to the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization towards a campaign for rebranding what has become a day which was once looked forward to by millions, but is now mired in the memory of unpleasant events.

The Bureau’s chief consumer analysts have been busy working on their “rebranding strategy” for months, with the mission directed by POTUS to hopeful have a much more productive and successful Memorial Day Weekend.

Our first plan revolved around making the holiday something everyone could enjoy. We also wanted to pull the focus away from the morbid reality of the day. So, to do that, we wanted to bring in a mascot. In much the same way that Easter and Christmas were rebranded to serve a larger, consumer oriented approach, we think that Memorial Day can be something fun for the whole family, as well. I mean think of how terrible life would be if women weren’t made to feel special on Valentine’s Day with expensive chocolates and jewelry, if children couldn’t look forward to mountains of presents to honor the birth of Jesus, or… oh wow, if we didn’t have the Easter Bunny and baskets filled with toys to water down what has to be the most depressing holiday in the history of religion. Honestly, it took a marketing genius to monetize deicide.

That’s why we’ve partnered with ad agencies to create Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard.

The marketing executive who is credited with inventing Marvin offered his thoughts on the newest holiday family icon.

Marvin is freakin’ sweet. Everyone loves ducks and mallards are, like, really American and stuff. We wanted to go with M’s because it’s an alliteration with Memorial Day, and buyers are so into alliteration. We also wanted an animal, because kids are into those, and also environmentalists. Since most of both of those groups are, like, against war and stuff, we thought that might increase our base of early adapters too.

We were originally going to go with “Milty the Mallard”, or “Milton”, because they sounded like a good old, like 1950’s name, like from when the big war was happening, or whatever. Then we were like, ‘Whoa, Milty sounds a lot like, ‘Military.” and we are trying to pull the focus away from that sort of business. Marvin is a funny name and we want Marvin to be about fun, not sad stuff like war and death. The holiday is still going to be about remembering and stuff, but instead of, you know, thinking about dead soldiers, we will just remember happy things. That’s really what we think Memorial Day was meant to be about in the first place, you know?

The inclusion of the flag was also kind of a big deal. We were thinking that if we are lucky, this thing might go international, like Santa, but that the flag would sort of ruin that if it turns out to offend too many people. Either way, we are looking forward to setting up Marvin in malls so that kids can get their picture with him, buy Marvin the Mallard dolls and toys, there is even talk of a cartoon series. It’s going to be epic.

Hopefully, these new initiatives can be taken and accepted by the broken people of the United States in moving on from their recent losses. Everyone is looking forward to a day when our shopping malls and beaches are back to the way they were before people started worrying so much about things that just don’t matter, not nearly as much anyway, as things like the security of our economy, the happiness of our children, and the freedom to shop. So in the words of Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard:

Marvin 3

Thank you all for enjoying this cathartic piece of satire nearly as much as its given me in remedying my veteran rage. Those who have followed me long enough know that every year I put out a special message reminding everyone to take a moment, that’s it, just a moment, to think about the real meaning behind Memorial Day. Yes, I want you to enjoy your time with family and friends, and yes, I even want you to barbeque, but we do need to have a national conversation about what the meaning of the day is all about. For those interested, here is this year’s message, available through one of my other blogs, shared with many other veterans, The Defense Quorum.

Jon’s Memorial Day Message 2015

I fulfilled my obligation this year and was proud of what I considered my best message yet. Having done that, I went on about my day. It wasn’t until I saw a facebook post from a friend, that my vet rage began to flare up. Having no other course to remedy myself than the exercising of my cherished First Amendment rights, I set towards creating the absolute most “passive aggressive post about how Memorial Day is not about cookouts but dead soldiers” ever. So, in that spirit, sorry to ruin everybody’s holiday buzz, but yes, indeed, Memorial Day is about more than you. It’s about all of us and what matters most, or should matter most, to all of us. That is the commitment and willingness of those who would sacrifice themselves throughout the generations, if for no other reason, than to allow us to be as stupid as we please on social media.

So from Jon’s Deep Thoughts to all of you, have a safe, refreshing, and thoughtful #MemorialDayWeekend.


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Jon’s Memorial Day Message 2015

I hope everyone has plans of enjoying this long awaited Memorial Day. As a first year teacher, the beginning of Summer is a long anticipated reprieve for a year of trials. My hopes are that, for all you, this holiday brings you rest and rejuvenation, a chance to relax to unwind, as well. Hopefully, you have some intent to spend time with your family and friends. Hopefully you enjoy a cookout, a day at the beach or just a day to sleep in.  Before we do all of these things, though, I hope that we take a few moments to think about the day and, in particular, what it should mean to all Americans.

I remember one Memorial Day Weekend, not long after my service of enlistment ended with the United States Marine Corps, watching the news as the reporter visited people enjoying the break from rhythm and routine. I found myself being very annoyed by much of what I saw. That afternoon the anchors gave reports of the day for boating and the activities which citizens could partake in. They gave a weather report for the lake and reminded boaters to drink responsibly. Reporters were out interviewing revelers. There were interviews of people at the parks, the lake or movie theater and asking them what they were doing for the holiday, as if it wasn’t obvious enough. On Facebook it was much of the same. My friends were visiting the lake and enjoying a day to party. These things in and of themselves are fine. Everyone should embrace the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones away from work, school and embrace the moments of bliss which are, from time to time afforded to us. I was annoyed, but not so much as to distract me from my own activities.

But when an area high school student responded to the question of what Memorial Day meant to her, she delivered this profound reply, which moved me to the very core of my being:

To party and get out of school.”

As a teacher and husband of a teacher, I understand her feeling better than she does. For those who have not yet released, they have a grueling year behind them and any break is welcomed. As a family of teachers, we fully intended to enjoy our summer, as well. As a former Marine Corps Sergeant, honorably discharged in 2008, and having served two tours in Iraq, however, I felt the need to make sure that the people within my reach were afforded my perspective on what the day means to me.

Memorial Day, in the United States, is meant to be a day of reflection and somber dignity, where we are freed from the burdens of work to consider the cost of such prosperity we enjoy throughout the year. I could bore you with the history, but suffice it to say that it is meant to be a day where we think about what we have and what was given to attain it, as well as to preserve it. Memorial Day is a very special day where it is asked that everyone take a moment to consider the great costs of living in our country that enjoys so many luxuries. Those costs, on this particular occasion, are measured in the lives of men and women who have fallen and died in the service of our nation.

To be clear, it isn’t really about the day off. It isn’t about time with your friends or even your family. It isn’t to remember just anyone who died, like your grandma or Uncle Milty, which many do. It isn’t even about the veterans, those who have served or are serving now. I served with Marines and took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom and I can tell you, it absolutely isn’t about us. That’s what Veteran’s Day is all about. This day is something different, unique, and special, different from any other national holiday our nation celebrates. This time, the day off is meant to serve a purpose.

Instead, Memorial Day is about a very special few American warriors. It is about those warriors who died in service of the country. Memorial Day is about thinking about them, considering the value of their persons, and the loss to society they represent. More so than this, it is a reflection of our value as individuals to what they believed in. In realizing this, an acknowledgement is made to the debt we who prosper owe to those who have given up the joys entailed in the pursuit of happiness, so that our quest continues.

Memorial Day is about acknowledging the individual Revolutionary soldier, all but forgotten, who fought to give this nation independence. It is about the soldier in the Civil War, who died liberating those who couldn’t fight for themselves and struggling to keep a desperate nation, and the ideals it stood for, together. It is to seek remembrance of the fields of white in quiet meadows of Europe and on tiny islands dotting the distant waters of the Pacific. It is a day where we remember the men who died on beaches, in forests, jungles, on mountains and deserts; in rain, snow and heat in places far, far away. Memorial Day is a day where, if even only for a moment, we consider the world we would have if no one placed themselves in Harm’s way, and we realize the necessity of terrible sacrifice. They fought tyranny and terror, faced aggression, hate and horror and chased it across the globe in the hopes that for one more generation, we might never face it here at home.

Memorial Day is for remembering the people, not as soldiers, and not as numbers or justification for agendas, but as people. Only then do we truly honor the selflessness and love they bore for others and why such virtues are necessary for a world such as ours. We thank all those who will never return to the beaches and the barbecues, the movies and Friday nights that we enjoy so much.

So, if you will please forgive my somber little post, please at some time during the day, do your solemn duty as free citizens of the United States. Take a moment to reflect in silence, say a small prayer, or give some thought to those who gave us our freedom with theirs. Ask yourselves what makes them worth a nation stopping to stand for what they did.

You may not agree that you should be asked to do this. You may not agree with or support the military at all. You may not support the government or what it stands for. You may be confused, disheartened, or angered by the wars we have been a part of and the state of our affairs, both foreign and domestic. By all means, disagree. Disagree and do nothing. Or disagree and do what you can to change these things in a peaceful and civilized manner, so that others may live well. You can do that. These are your rights. Just remember that to secure such rights there are those who gave them up. Whether or not you agree with them and what they stood for, please show them your appreciation and respect on this day. This Memorial Day weekend, please give up just a few moments of your time before you go off to the lake, the cookout, the parade or just when you’re relaxing on the couch. Think about those men and women who gave up all of their tomorrows so that you and I could enjoy the rest of our todays.

If you agree and liked what I have to say, please upvote, promote or share in whatever social network you like. I appreciate it. With that said, you have my deepest sincerity in wishing you a very Happy Memorial Day.

Thank you and Semper fi,
Jon

In memory of those I knew:
Lance Corporal Hatak Yearby – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2006

Master Sergeant Brett Angus – Marine Corps,  Killed in Action, Iraq 2005

Staff Sgt. William Douglas Richardson – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2005


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