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.


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,

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


What is the logic behind making military boot camps intensive?

My next piece focuses on the questions that often come up among people who haven’t been a part of the military experience concerning our indoctrination process into that life, i.e., boot camp. Even though boot camp is one of the few commonalities among all veterans, it is still completely misunderstood by those who haven’t experienced. It’s often portrayed methodologically in media as a place that transforms young boys into warrior robots, where lifelong brotherhoods are forged because they have to go through “hell” together, or worse, as an institution for the brainwashing of children into killers.

Since leaving the Corps in 2008, I’ve been fascinated in seeing how boot camp is able to do what it does,namely, by taking kids like me, at the ages of 17, 18, and 19, from a society which prides itself on the values of individualism, self-preservation, personal liberties and personal satisfaction and turning them into a force of warriors willing to run towards the sound of gunfire, danger, and suffer innumerable indignities and sufferings along the way. Once you get through the surface, which is actually quite terrible, you’ll begin to see the place for the marvel of psychological engineering that is.

Hopefully, throughout the next series, you as civilian readers or just nostalgic veterans can read through and gain a deeper appreciation for the foundational training that sets apart the world’s greatest warrior class from everyone else.

Who Does It Really Hurt When People Fake Military Service? – Veterans – What to Do About It

Veterans – What to Do About It

Every month or so, I’ll see in my feeds a new person “Getting put on blast” for getting caught faking military service. That’s what we call it when a faker is caught red handed and a photo or video gets posted to social media. It’s sort of the holy grail for many vets and active duty service members to find some guy pretending to be a SEAL at the bar, or a soldier in cammies at the airport, or a Marine in dress blues. They all want to be that guy who catches them on camera and for it go viral as they are humiliated for thousands… millions to see. We want to deliver that divine sense of justice to teach those nasty liars a lesson.

To all the veterans out there, I really want you to take a look at this person. Please take a good, hard look at him. Not his uniform, but the man standing there.

Is this not a pathetic looking human being? When you look into his eyes, I mean really look at them, does your sense of anger not subside when you realize just how miserable he had to be to do this? Does it not appear obvious that he, himself, is aware of how pathetic he is to attempt this stunt? What hole must exist in his life that he would try so desperately, so failingly, to fill it like this? How angry can you really be at a person like this?

Angry enough to ruin the rest of his life? Do you think this picture is going anywhere? Do you think his name won’t forever be attached to it? Should one incredibly stupid, incredibly insensitive act of jackassery, one mistake, define a person’s entire life from then on? Think back on your time in service. I’ve drug many a drunken Lance Corporal through the parking lots of Camp Pendleton, CA, some covered in vomit, some in their own urine. These people are now all proud veterans, but each have made incredibly stupid mistakes, all of which have been forgiven. But do we forgive others? No, we don’t. Finding them out and making a public spectacle of them is sort of our thing now that the wars are over.

It’s gotten so bad that Terminal Lance, the online comic strip put out by Marine Corps veteran Max Uriante, famed for its abrasive, sometimes caustic satire on military and veteran life, even did a strip on how vehement we can be in this regard. It demonstrates “that guy”, one we all know, making a royal jackass of himself that I would like all veterans to really think about.

I’ll be honest, when all of us turn into that guy, we are making a bigger show of what the military isn’t than anything most of these guys have achieved. We come off as petty and self-righteous which is against our proud and humble heritage. Most of the guys who would do this are just losers who aren’t worthy of our blood pressure (which, face facts, is a problem for most of us.) Putting someone on blast for being stupid isn’t the answer, and in the end, only ends up doubling the number jerks in the room. To be honest, that moment of self-satisfaction isn’t worth it when you come to find out you lost that poor loser his job, or maybe that, in his shame, he ate a bullet. At the very least, no mistake should last forever, which is exactly what happens when you immortalize someone’s mistake online.

Seriously though, it’s getting to be a problem, such a problem that many of us are nervous about speaking out online for the threat of being called out for Stolen Valor incorrectly. It happened to one Army Captain, Lindsay Lowery, who was humiliated after being called out for pretending that she took part in more action than she really did. She faced numerous insults, both as a person faking their service and, simply, for being a woman in the military. As the truth turned out, everything she said was the absolute truth and even her commissioning officer vouched to make that point known. Sadly, once the truth came out, the rebuttal didn’t go nearly as viral as did the initial onslaught of hate directed her way unjustly. People like me, people who write extensively online about military experiences we’ve had, have taken the lesson to heart, “Perception is Reality.” I keep a blacked-out DD-214, the form pretty much validating anything I need to prove, available upon request for whenever someone finally makes that jump of doubting anything I have to say to the point that I need to prove myself, before the lie goes viral. It’s a sad truth, but this is what our culture, the veteran culture, is turning into.

Instead, I wish more people would make fun of it. Seriously, make people aware of the phenomena in a way that educates people while not looking like a self-important jerk about it. These guys at Ranger Up, a YouTube channel put out by some Army veterans, did a great job of it. Very funny.

Where it happens online, somewhere it is way too easy to fake military knowledge and experience, I think we have a case study on how to handle it.Tymon Kapelski, one of the newest contributors to The Defense Quorum, Quora’s military interests blog, recently posted a piece showcasing a military faker here on Quora. This person fabricated a special operations story that showcased the beauty of the human condition to come together in a time of common human suffering. The problem? It could never have possibly happened. The time tables made no sense and there has never be a conflict where these combatants would have been that close to one another for this story to have taken place. It was complete fiction. The bigger problem? It had already been upvoted more than 1,400 times and seen by many thousands of people.

What Tymon, among others, did was to confront the individual separately and politely, in the comments section. They said that there were some problems with the answer that they wanted to know about the event and more about the individual in question. Receiving push-back from the author, and eventually seeing challenging comments get deleted. Some went on the investigation and dug up evidence that this individual not only couldn’t have been in the battle he said happened, but had he been, he would have been 14 at the time. Seeing that the individual wasn’t budging, he made his concern public to the veteran community at  The Defense Quorum. From there, the concern was posted to the Top Writer’s board on Facebook and the admins took care of making sure that the answer disappears forever, as has the author who fabricated it. Nice job Tymon and the DQ. This is the second such Quora Stolen Valor case I’ve been a part of, the other with the help of Sam Morningstar which went pretty much the same way. Both of these cases, I would urge others to take up as examples of civil confrontations between potentially stolen valor cases and the rest of the community.

As for what to do if you see someone out in town doing something stupid? For all the rest of us, when and if we see one, I wish that instead of grabbing a buddy with a camera, we would instead pull the dude over (perhaps assertively so) and just say to the guy.

“Look, we know what you’re doing and you need to stop. It is against the law to claim some of things you’ve done and you need to stop. Go away now or we will make it clear to everyone here that you are lying about your military service.”

If they fight you or resist your warning… whatever. Do what you gotta do.

To read the full story click here.


Who Does It Really Hurt When People Fake Military Service? Part IV – Loss to the Citizens

Lastly, the citizens themselves suffer when someone falsely wears a uniform that they didn’t earn. As I mentioned earlier, they are the ones whose opinions are being formed by these people, rather than real warriors. In some cases, this in the forming of negative stereotypes because of nasty individuals trying to pick up girls of loose morals and poor judgment. In other cases, however, it is people who tell the greatest stories. These people can tell you of the battles they have fought and the lives they lost. They tell you the story every man wants to be a part of and of their great, though humble, heroism. These people push the limits of what is humanly achievable. Yes, while there are truly heroic cases that exist of great valor in the armed services, there is also a flood of people who have completely blown the common understanding of what it means to be a warrior. Civilians will ask questions like “did you kill anybody?” and be disappointed when you tell them “No.” Many people have no understanding of the real lives of warriors because the fakers have led them to believe in myth over reality. This robs the civilian listener more than the veteran in my opinion, because they miss out on the value of real veterans. Real ones will never live up to the legend created by the guys who just made it up.

Perhaps more importantly though, is the real heart of the matter and why the Stolen Valor Act was passed, not once, but twice.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 (Pub.L. 113–12; H.R. 258) is a United States federal law that was passed by the 113th United States Congress. The law amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for a person to fraudulently claim having received any of a series of particular military decorations with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit from convincing someone that he or she rightfully did receive that award.

The commonly held belief is that people dressed as military people just walk around all day and collect thank yous. While this happens, as I have shown often, the majority of problems dealing with fakers surrounds people fraudulently filing for benefits they do not rate. These aren’t people who ever go out in public. They are simply con-artists. Consider the state of disability among military veterans. To get a grip on how much is at stake here, in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2009, President George W. Bush requested $38.7 billion for veteran medical care alone. Most of us who were deployed rate something. I rate 10% disability for service connected back injury and hearing loss from working around guns, which gives me a small stipend every month to pay for medical care. While this is small in my case, it can be grievous in the case of others. For example, if you can produce evidence of 100% disability and that you have three dependents in your care, your compensation from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs can reach $3,447.72 a month. I am not saying that is a good thing. That level of injury is staggering, but if all you have to do is fake the paperwork… that is a free ride for life. One case I have heard of involved a Vietnam Era “Colonel” Hamilton receiving over $30,000 in undeserved VA disability compensation. It seems that he never actually served at all. This doesn’t even include getting paid to receive a college education, guaranteed housing and business loans, as well as receiving discounts to various businesses and services for being a veteran. Frankly, if all you have to do is fill out the paperwork the right way, there is a lot of money to be had and that poses a tempting target for scammers. I’d like to know the exact figures, but given the bloated VA backlog and the poor resources to investigate such abuses, we are looking at a multi-billion dollar fraud industry.

I’m sure at this point, I don’t have to make it clearer how this hurts all of us. While somewhere around eight years ago I used to be just a lowly Corporal, mucking it up in Al Anbar Province Iraq, now my day job is as a teacher in one of the poorest regions of the country. Every day I see good kids who don’t have enough books to take home and study. I see buses and facilities in disrepair and not enough teachers to cover all the classes. Leave the school and you have roads that haven’t been properly repaired in years and a hospital you are afraid to go to because you might die. It isn’t that anyone in the town isn’t doing a good job, it is simply that we could use help. As I drive home down Main Street and look at its decay, I think about how we will never get that help because there are so many out there getting by simply from doing nothing, living off government payouts such as those I have listed. While I know that all the problems of a small town won’t be solved by cutting entitlement benefits to freeloaders, and while I know that fraudulent veteran payouts only account for a small percentage of the total entitlements being paid out, there are people who need and deserve it more. I think most people, even non-veterans can see this, but many veterans especially, having already made great sacrifices for their country, view the freeloader mentality, and especially the scam artists, as a particularly abhorrent form of vermin.

To read the full story click here.


Who Does It Really Hurt When People Fake Military Service? Part III – The Role of Recognition

I am very privileged to live near the city of Gainesville, Texas. There, every year, they have numerous reenactments and even play host to the annual Medal of Honor Parade. It is a celebration in honor of the 67 living Medal of Honor recipients, 16 of which, were present at this year’s parade. To those who have been, it is a spectacle like no other small town has ever endeavored to achieve. Between the recipients in era vehicles commemorating their wars from World War II to Afghanistan, to the rebuilt bombers, fighter planes, and attack helicopters buzzing California Street and the Braums Ice Cream store, it is a truly memorable day for anyone lucky enough to grace it.

Parades like this have fallen out of fashion for most of America. Memorial Day is little more than a good time to go to the lake and enjoy a three day weekend. The sales are also really great, I hear. Veterans Day, more of the same with a simple nod to those guys who did stuff most people don’t care to question somewhere “Over There”. To veterans, though, it is a time to reflect and be rejuvenated. They get to experience that sense of community with fellows like them. They get to look back with nostalgia at that moment when they first became a Marine, or a sailor, an airmen, or a soldier. Ceremonies like this renew their pride in themselves and their continued worth as individuals to society. They look at those young warriors, those marching along in their old uniforms and they see everything good about their time in service. They see those young guys and they know these are important individuals, which reminds them that they are too. They feel all this, simply because they see the uniform they once wore, marching proudly down the street.

That said, I do get the temptation to attach yourself to the few moments of appreciation a year that veterans are afforded. Many of these people who go so far as to fake military achievements are pretty worthless. I’m not saying that as just a harsh attack. People like this feel very little self-worth because they truly have very little to offer to society. That’s why they lie. That’s really why anybody lies about anything. They’ve done nothing with their lives and no one appreciates them for anything. They want to feel heroic for once. They want to feel pride for once. They see people thanking us and think it must be great to feel like that. In truth, our feelings are far more complicated than that, but I can understand what they think. We all want to feel like someone we admire, but we don’t cross the line to feel that way.

People want to get as much of the warrior experience now a days as they can, without actually being warriors. They recognize certain qualities of troops and want to distill it and harness that for their own use. Yes, fraudulent people who dress in military uniforms do this, but so does everyone else. Consider how often you’ve heard of physical training courses. What used to be called “X-treme” is now called “Boot Camp”. Housewives and office jockies attempt this training because they think two hours of strenuous exercise with a clown yelling at them is synonymous with the boot camp experience for military recruits. It’s the same with programming boot camp. Is that the three month course where you are completely transformed into a new mindset and frame of referrence? No – it’s just an overpriced two week intensive training session on a new programming language. That’s not a boot camp. I was even recently askedHow do I train myself like a Navy Seal? and the details of the question:

I’m not planning to join the army but I’m trying to study and adopt the mindset of those people, since they have totally mastered themselves and be able to overcome almost any situation with intense focus, dedication and discipline. If we could learn from them, we can apply the same to reach any kind of goals, dedicate ourselves to some great ideals and become a better person of values.What are the some of the practices a normal person can include in everyday life which can replicate the mind and body of a Navy SEAL? Like Mediation, Reading, Workout?

I made a very clear point that if you want to be a SEAL, or a warrior in general, you pretty much have to accept the need to kill people, and endeavour to do so. All the other attributes come as secondary. After you say things like that, the air in the room changes. Still, questions like this will never stop coming. “How can I get the best version of the military experience, without actually doing all the military stuff they have to do?”

Of course, then there are always those who want to capture the sense of awesome that is associated with those who do great things.

It isn’t that I don’t understand why this sort of thing happens. People draw false comparisons, particularly among professional athletes and celebrities. Pictured above, you see 50 cent who took the short lived “military cliche” to its absolute most extreme. I say short lived, because he and dozens of other celebs were publicly accosted for the affront to military sensibilities their poor judgement brought about. Another case I remember was of an NFL commercial where a CG player dressed in a cammie jersey pattern ran through explosions and bombs dropping or some other nonsense, to reach the touchdown. That made no sense, either.

I feel that the real reason that there is so much “branding” going on is that these groups and individuals prize certain aspects of the military experience and want to attach themselves to the military’s brand. That brand, to many if not most people, means things like “dangerous” or “aggressive”, or even “killer”, among other things. Such a brand really stands out to those wishing to promote those lower brain functions and gain an audience wishing to see just that. Others associate the military experience with ideas like “high achiever”, “hard worker”, “heroic”, or “brave”. Though positive at least, people want to borrow these attributes to augment their personal brands. Celebrities like 50 Cent and Justin Bieber do this by comparing themselves to “soldiers” fighting in a “war” or “battle”. They want to borrow the image of dangerous men or of those who suffer to lend that image, and some fallacy of depth, to their music. Even Tom Cruise’s press secretary compared the struggles he faces when making a movie “like being on a military deployment to Afghanistan.” Professional athletes do it all the time by comparing a sport where the whole world stops if they twist an ankle to the battlefield.

Veterans don’t appreciate this. Borrowing something like the idea of the military isn’t something people should do lightly, especially when it involves the wearing of the uniform. These are earned and it would be comparable to the feeling these individuals get when they get their first major contract or are accepted into a team that few people ever get to play for. Frankly, even considering this, the comparisons are actually incredibly shallow. If you are successful as a celebrity or athlete, your college or hometown will build a statue for you, a practice few in the military have enjoyed since about the time professional sports became mainstream. You pretty much have to die to get that honor in the military. Celebrities are also part of an elite group which almost no one in the general population could ever hope to be a part of because they enjoy a rather miraculous and inequitable doling out of specific talents. Veterans aren’t this way. They are simply ordinary people who have elected to do extraordinary things- for mediocre compensation, I might add. Celebrities have every wish carried out by an army of support staff dedicated to ensuring that they are adequately happy enough to sign a new contract. They play a sport… a game… sing songs… or professionally play make believe. They entertain. Sometimes injuries are common in sports, but if there is ever a death it is National news. Same for if Angelina Jolie were to actually break her leg. They are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions to stand in people’s way, catch or throw a ball, run, sing, act, or dance on a stage. Many of them are little more than spoiled brats with no virtue other than one single inhuman talent which has driven them to an unprecedented level of success and arrogance. This in no way compares to what a member of the military feels on virtually every level, so celebrities should just never try to aggrandize themselves further by drawing the false comparison that they are in any way comparable to a true warrior.

I get that people want to be recognized. They want to appear special, and everyone, no matter how special already, want to feel more so. One of the easiest ways to do this is to borrow something special from someone else. People can feel special by doing just about anything military like and get that sense of, “Now I’m special too.” Everyone wants to be thanked for something special and everyone wants the parade to be for them. So some steal the recognition. It can be overt and explicit, such as the jokers who try to receive thank yous and recognition at parades; or it can be more pernicious and subversive, such as aggrandizing difficult training as a “boot camp”, or wearing a Marine Corps jacket and calling yourself a soldier as a fashion statement to “show respect to troops” who have made it abundantly clear that they despisethis form of acknowledgement. Either way, all of these diminish the role that recognition plays in our lives as veterans. It helps continue negative, or at least incorrect stereotypes about us and undervalues the worth we have. Dan Rosenthal said it marvelously in his answer to this same question.

… You end up with a public that doesn’t understand, nor has any concept of the daily life and routine of the average soldier. They end up thinking that every soldier is on the front lines and faces death every day, and as a result, the IT technical specialist who works from an air conditioned bunker on an air base feels devalued.

When the military and veterans can’t be recognized as valued individuals with unique and useful skills, mentalities, and a history of service because they don’t have enough medals, or their story isn’t cool enough, how can they ever rejoin their society again? How can they ever build on it, when society doesn’t understand them and is always bombarded with these fake versions of valor and what it means to be a modern day warrior? This is the role of recognition. It makes warriors feel like real people again, valued, and even necessary again because they have an honored and important place in this world. If that place is diluted with false accounts of what the military experience is, than the hole that society wants them to fill will never fit, and the veterans will continue to fall through the cracks.

To read the full story click here.





Who Does It Really Hurt When People Fake Military Service? Part II – The Uniform as Metaphor

As I said before, you’d think that military veterans wouldn’t really care that much about people impersonating them. I mean, these guys were professional warriors and the closest thing to modern day superheroes that our world has to offer… and they know it. Why would they care so much about someone pretending to be them? I know that a lot of veterans are angry that I would even ask that question, but it’s OK, put away the knife-hands gentlemen. I’m about to explain.

As a regular person, you might not know why the Marine pictured above is crying. You’d probably guess he is going to a funeral or about to leave home for the first time to go off to war. That’s because your view of him is based on stereotypes, along with just a few lies and you would be wrong. This young recruit is about to take part in a culminating event of recruit training, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor Ceremony. The EGA is the emblem of the United States Marine Corps and only Marines are entitled to wear it. For the last three months, this recruit has been in Marine Corps Boot Camp, but he was not a Marine. He, like all the other recruits with him, weren’t considered Marines until after they completed training. They were called “recruit” and suffered the hardships, trials, and indignities which come with the moniker. Once they finished Boot Camp, more properly, once they had received their EGA, only then will they have “earned the title” of United States Marine.

It’s a particularly religious moment for our odd little cult of warriors. For many, receiving the EGA, and by extension the honor of being Marine, is the proudest moment of their lives. It is the moment, for so many of them, which truly gave their lives meaning. Many of my friends who joined the Marines had no direction, no purpose, and no dreams for the future.  They didn’t have a sense of agency, the belief that their decisions mattered. They were just riding the waves. They were far more likely to end up in prison as they were to be looked upon with honor by their community. The Marine Corps, for many of my friends, gave them that sense of being part of something that mattered. If I were to attempt a guess, I’d say that the young man pictured above is crying because, for the first time, he is part of a community of people who matter, one which is honorable, and respected because of what they mean to the world and the citizens which they are drawn from.

That said, while all members of the military may not take it as far as the fanaticism demonstrated by Marines, they all share a common bond, which is signified by their uniform. The uniform, as I made clear earlier, is an artifact which is more than an article of clothing. To many, it is the symbol that links them to a time of greater meaning in their lives. It showcases honorable ideals and virtues they are proud to see when they look upon others who wear it today. What’s more? Every device, every ribbon, every medal, every shooting badge, like the uniform itself, is earned as a product of recruit training, important missions, special schools, and years of honorable service.

What’s more important is what it symbolizes long after service. For many veterans, upon leaving the military, there is a period of mild, or even severe depression. This can even manifest in a longing to return not just to the military, but to war itself. Sebastian Junger, an embedded journalist with an Army unit in Afghanistan and creator of the documentary Restrepo, has had much to say on the question of why would a veteran miss something like war.

About a year later I invited Brendan [one of the soldiers Junger knew in Afghanistan] to a dinner party, and a woman asked him if he missed anything at all about life at the outpost. It was a good question: the platoon had endured a year without Internet, running water or hot food and had been in more combat than almost any platoon in the United States military. By any measure it was hell, but Brendan didn’t hesitate: “Ma’am,” he said, “I miss almost all of it.”

Civilians are often confused, if not appalled, by that answer. The idea that a psychologically healthy person could miss war seems an affront to the idea that war is evil. Combat is supposed to feel bad because undeniably bad things happen in it, but a fully human reaction is far more complex than that. If we civilians don’t understand that complexity, we won’t do a very good job of bringing these people home and making a place for them in our society.

The New York Times

Junger has his beliefs, but as someone who also experienced a lot of the same feelings, I think there is more. As I said before, depression following leaving the military is a very real phenomena that unfortunately embraces the lives of far too many of us. This phenomena, in my opinion, is often misdiagnosed by society at large as PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It isn’t that. Most of us never saw combat, though that isn’t the only thing that can cause PTSD. Regardless of whether or not we saw combat, death, or destruction on the scales people often assume we did, most of us don’t show any of the normal symptoms of PTSD at all. We are just depressed. The failure of society to recognize the distinction in this has caused great suffering for veterans and hasn’t eased the strain on us at all.

Why so many of us are depressed during the period in our lives we had been looking forward to for years is perplexing. One would think the ease of lifestyle would help make us happy. One would be wrong. Perhaps it is the loss of community we feel, as Junger notes in a TEDx talk on the subject; or the sadness for our participation in acts our society doesn’t wholly understand or approve of, a theory held by former Army Ranger and Professor of Psychology of West Point, Lt. Col Dave Grossman. A third, by a professor of Ethics at the United States Naval Academy, Shannon French, postulates that returning veterans aren’t getting the cool down time WWII vets would have had while spending months in close quarters with their fellow survivors on a small ship before finally arriving home after the war. They would spend this time speaking with other members who knew well what they were enduring and going through, an important element lacking in most modern counseling programs for veterans. There is an axiom that pain shared is pain divided. The fact that sixteen hour international flights had yet to be realized for the average soldier was, in effect, a form of forced mass therapy that is overlooked today.

I personally think that there is something simpler than that. Imagine that you will never be awesome again in your life. I know it sounds stupid, but imagine that the coolest thing you will ever do, the thing which the most people will praise and admire you for, you’ve already done. Ronald Reagan put it succinctly with his quote that “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.” But, what happens after you are a man in the uniformed services? Imagine a soldier who comes to this realization, whether explicitly or subconsciously, “I will never be half the person I was in Iraq.”

It’s a depressing aspect and one that is hard to communicate. I guess you could consider it like having a midlife crisis at twenty-two. It comes with a loss of agency: you no longer feel like your decisions will ever matter again. You’re now just another nobody. I think the best person I have ever heard describe this was a stockbroker friend of mine who used to be a professional athlete. He was injured early in his prime and never was able to compete again. The two of us talked about this sensation of “loss of awesome” when he talked about going from being a pro-athlete to doling out cups of coffee and the depressing state of mind that held. He even told another story about a fellow stockbroker who hit a massive pay-day – $75 million; more than the vast majority of us could even fathom. His colleague though, didn’t seem as ecstatic as my friend thought he should have been. My friend left all his coworkers celebrating and asked the now multicentimillionaire why he wasn’t that happy about the team’s achievement. He said to my friend,

“I am happy. It’s just that there are other things. I am on my third wife and I have six kids, all who I don’t know and who hate me.”

Sympathizing, he asked, “Why don’t you just retire?”

After a pause, the old stockbroker said, “Because if leave here, I’m nothing.”

I think this the loss that warriors feel. One does not just go back to being normal after being a warrior. A part of you is forever changed, for better or worse and there is no returning to the person who isn’t still, in part, a warrior. But what is a warrior without a war? To many of them, they are just has-beens. What the uniform, to these individuals, signifies is a time when their lives had value. It symbolizes a time when their choices mattered. For the lucky ones who find meaningful purpose after the military, it is still something that signifies a time in their lives they were very passionate about, a defining time, and one which has elements they will always miss. Maybe it is just nostalgia, because after time fades the emotional wounds that military service often inflicts, you’re left with a great sense of pride no matter what the circumstances. Seeing the uniform abused, as is done by many, is an abuse on the warrior personally. It is an abuse on a large part of his self – that identity he had so emotionally vested into those garments and medallions. The uniform is a metaphor for so many other things that military services represents to the veteran. Many are indescribable, and seeing it worn by someone who hasn’t earned the title, hasn’t suffered the indignities and hardships, is a slap in the face to many who have.

To read the full story click here.