We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms... And the impervious shelter beneath which it has prospered.
I came across a powerful video today, just at random, on the Vickers Tactical channel, about one Tyler Grey, an ex-RANGER who was severely injured over in the Sandbox.
He is a quiet man. He speaks with dignity and grace about what happened to him. He doesn't dress up what he went through, and you can see from his face and hear in his voice that what he endured haunts him to this day. But beyond his calm strength and his clearly incredible resilience to trauma and pain, he gives us civilians a very powerful insight into the reasons why men like him endure hellish conditions for miserable pay under the ever-present threat of injury, dismemberment, and death at the hands of cunning and ruthless enemies.
(Warning: there are images in this video that ARE NOT for those with weak constitutions.)
The follow-on video from that is the documentary that Mr. Grey made, out of videos shot for his own personal diary, and combined with clips from interviews of many individuals who have fought for this country, and those who have helped them re-adjust to civilian life after that.
I cannot pretend to really understand what drives the fighting men of this country. What they do requires sacrifice, devotion, and at some deep level "an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part... and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself, that the whole may live".
I have boundless respect and admiration for that attitude. I have never met a more professional, decent, and upstanding group of men than the personnel in the Army and the Marine Corps that I have interacted with in my 9 years in this country. I believe to my very core that, as long as the American military continues to be staffed by men like Mr. Grey, and officers who will lead them with honour and courage, then this country has nothing to fear from its own armed forces.
But even that is no longer guaranteed:
The way that war affects these men is not something that civilians can easily comprehend. All we can do- the best we can do- is support and honour those who have gone through that very particular kind of hell. We may not be very good at it, because we civilians simply have no idea what it means to see our friends maimed and burned and shot to pieces and killed before us; we've never had to wash their blood off our hands and out of our vehicles; we've never had to hold them in our arms and stared into their pain-wracked eyes as the light in them slowly fades amid a symphony of agony.
But it is all we can do. The best we can do is try to make sure that returning veterans don't end up homeless and hungry, taken to court by their wives and called murderers and mindless myrmidons and forced to watch as the very society that sent them to war, now takes away everything they have left.
That is something that Western society as a whole, and American society in particular, is failing to do. Badly. We are derelict in our duty toward those who fulfilled theirs.
What Mr. Grey and his colleagues have tried to do in that documentary is show the rest of us why men like them fight. They have tried to show us how war changes men, how they come back to a country that they no longer recognise, and how traumatic it is for them to try to readjust to a society that does not understand them and, increasingly, finds it difficult to support them.
Now, having traveled as much as I have, and having written the above, I will say this in defence of Americans: you people, especially the Jacksonians among you, still understand and love and respect the American military. God love you for that.
This is the character trait of Americans that I most deeply admire- that innate, unwavering sense of patriotism, that understanding at some instinctive level that freedom is never free. You still donate money in enormous amounts to support private charities that do their level best to take care of returning warriors. Because it is your sons that have borne the burden of so many of the West's wars over the past century, you still understand, however dimly, the price that these men pay to preserve gifts that they themselves cannot enjoy while fighting for them. That is why, despite all of my gentle mockery of the idiosyncrasies of Americans, I hold in utter contempt the reflexive and ridiculously misinformed anti-Americanism of the International Community of the Ever-So-Caring And Sensitive (ICOTESCAS). (With apologies to LTC Tom Kratman, of course.)
You have to travel outside the USA to see just how unusual and rare this attitude is. In Britain, really the only other Western country that has really had to pay a severe price in blood spent in the Sandbox and the Rockpile, there is a real feeling that the Covenant between society and its soldiers has been broken, and that British society now treats its wounded warriors as unwanted outcasts.
That attitude has, so far, not crossed the Pond to any great degree, at least not among the ordinary people of this country. I can only thank the Almighty for that. The day that this country once again becomes ashamed of its own warriors, as it so regrettably did after the Vietnam War, is the day that its downfall as a nation is truly assured. And while its government daily strives to find new indignities to heap upon those who gave their all, and sometimes more, for family and flag, its people still remember, at some level, what it means to fight- and why men like Mr. Grey go to war.