Last Friday we ran a list of things that make us want to punch civilians in the throat. The response surprised us - the butt tears flew in a torrent. Seems like as many people were in visceral (grunts: visceral) agreement with us as those who strenuously objected - many taking offense. Many of those who did not concur with us weighed in with reasonable commentary. Others quickly demonstrated the same asshat logic and behavior that prompted the rant in the first place. To those respondants, and to everyone really, we offer this response from one of our friends. PS Gosh thanks for paying our salary. Sorry you got butthurt that we think a few of you are fuckwits.
Service not Servitude
When I signed a contract to serve my country, I must not have seen the addendum that on separation I’d be required to suck the dick of every diehard American taxpayer with their hand over their heart and a flaming eagle tee.
You know that middling morass of a government bureaucracy you’ve lamented for the past few decades? Yeah, I was mired in that. My doe-eyed idealism gave way to a thousand-yard stare as I fought wars in faraway lands for incontinent politicians who measured the feasibility of war by length and girth. With barely a high school education, the responsibility was mine to bare the national burden of death and war and when I got back — holy goddamn surprise — suffering from heightened and persistent stress, people called it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as if anybody who comes back from a place where it’s okay to kill other people without any emotional tension is somehow the picture of mental fucking health.
If that wasn’t enough, somewhere along the line my brethren and I became a Rorschach test for everyone back home, who conjured from our likenesses images of saints or demons or whatever else they wanted to see, and who were then somehow disappointed when it turned out after spending a decade at war while they were at the mall, we came back bitter and resentful.
So excuse me if I get pissed off over stupid shit like your incorrect usage of military vernacular while you try to impress upon me how you would have served if it weren’t for your undiagnosed thyroid issue. Excuse me for cursing too much, for flirting with your girlfriend, for punching you right in the shemagh you wore at the rifle range or else in Brooklynite irony, for stealing your girlfriend. Excuse me for kicking your ass at first-person shooters or, upon losing, making fun of you for playing first-person shooters in the first place. Excuse me for expressing my constant dissatisfaction with a world that I can now forever call on its bullshit because I saw it at war and know what it looks like shitting itself.
Author after a patrol through Kunar
"There is a civilian-military divide, and it does not get solved merely by buying miniature flags, military wares and magnetic support ribbons. I cannot believe the entitlement from some of the commenters here, who think military service means prostrating yourself to every dumb fuck who prods you about deeply personal experiences in combat for the chance to hear a 'war story.' The fact is, what was a life-changing experience in service by a very tiny percentage of this country is degraded and turned into novelty by the majority. You're goddamn right some of us are going to come back bitter and resentful. Service does not mean servitude."
These observations, though they hardly ever make sense and are more often than not themselves complete bullshit, were how I was taught to pass the miserable boredom between action, how I found my brothers — in mutual misery. I used to be a boot until I learned to complain and now I complain about everything. My back hurts, my knees are shot, I can’t sleep at night and my best friends are dead; forgive me for having the curmudgeonly cynicism of a centenarian at 28.
If I had to do it all over again, I would. But my service only meant I had to call you sir for the duration of my contract and the way I see it I’ve got eight years of good etiquette to make up for. You can bet your rights I’d low-crawl my ass right out of that medical processing center faster than you can ask me my kill count if I thought I’d have to like any of you bastards afterward. The beautiful upshot of all this, of course — the one that I swore and will to this day die to protect — is that you don’t have to like me either … asshole.
"The beautiful upshot of all this, of course — the one that I swore and will to this day die to protect — is that you don’t have to like me either … asshole."
Afterword - none of us thinks veterans should be lauded and feted (grunts: feted) for volunteering to serve this country. Veterans with a sense of entitlement are as frustrating as civilians who ask stupid questions. We appreciate heartfelt support. However, the fact that you "pay our salaries" doesn't mean we have to kiss your ass, or keep our opinions to ourselves either. It's easy to throw a yellow ribbon on or share the picture of an eagle and a flag on Facebook. It's a little more difficult - and genuine - to actually do something like educate yourself, actively improved support medical and psychologicl support for the guys who've carried the burden of combat over the last decade +. Note: the POGs of our team agree, but make no dramatic claims to self-sacrifice or combat experience. Anyway, as the author himself said in the Facebook thread (and we think this was well spoken, if understandably bitter), "We go abroad only to return to vanity, greed, apathy, empty partisanship, and a few decorative gestures of thanks, because it's a lot easier to cook hot dogs and blow up fireworks than it is to take care of those who've returned, than it is to have an even cursory understanding of how democracy works and what kind of intellectual courage is necessary to maintain it."
it's a lot easier to cook hot dogs and blow up fireworks than it is to take care of those who've returned, than it is to have an even cursory understanding of how democracy works and what kind of intellectual courage is necessary to maintain it."
Author and team he was embedded with after leaving the Marines
About the author: Karim Delgado is probably the closest thing we have to a hippie on our list of respected contacts, peers and single dancing mom afficianodos - the fact that he refers to himself as 'Yossarian' in social media is about spot on. He is a latte-sipping, Ivy League-educated East Coast liberal currently in New York City after serving as an active-duty sergeant in the Marine Corps as a combat correspondent. He was employed in the better part of last year as a civilian videographer for the U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, where his job was to film men better than he'll ever be doing the kind of substantive work he'll only ever write about. He is the man behind the absolutely stunning Humans of Afghanistan. Read more from him here, but be forewarned - he will make you think, no matter how incorrigibly certain you are you're right.