Stigma. The ‘Not-So-Silent’ Killer.

For those of you who have served, especially in the infantry, you know that there is a stigma when it comes to the profession of combat. Weak is the only four letter word that someone could call you that could possibly hurt you. The infantry is a profession for hard men who lead hard lives. We take no shit. We fight for fun. We drink more than we should. We have an invented derogatory name for those who were not man enough to join the profession of dispensing freedom one 5.56 at a time. That’s right, I am talking to you, you fucking POG.  We are the reason you can’t get laid in a 50 square mile radius of any major military installation if you sport a high and tight. Arrogance? You’re god damned right we are arrogant.  For enemies of the United States, we are the things that nightmares are made of. Oh you’re sick? Take a knee and drink some water. Oh you’re injured, huh? Take a god damned knee and drink some more water, pussy. Oh you’re having problems at home? Nothing a bottle of Jack cant remedy.  PTSD? That’s something POGs made up to get their queer little combat action badge. We are the top 10% of the 1% that volunteer to serve this country. We wear our combat infantrymen’s badge, blue cord and discs with pride because we know we have been there, done that, and got that T-shirt. We are better than you and we aren’t afraid to let you know it. Why? because we aren’t weak like you. We aren’t afraid to die in the most horrendous ways possible. We crave that day we get to pull that trigger and dispatch another America hating savage. If you have ever been in the infantry after reading that I know you feel a little pride swelling in your chest.

There is a reason that the stigma exists. Most people would never knowingly put themselves in harm’s way, let alone crave the challenge of being locked in a fight where only one side can come out with their life. It’s a badge of honor to know that you are one of the few that are willing to throw yourself into a kill or be killed situation. There is nothing like it. Unless you have been part of the fraternity of infantry no matter how hard I try to explain it you will never fully understand. I owe the infantry for some of the best qualities I have as a man. I can face any situation and know damn well I am going to come out on top. Everyone fails. It’s part of life but the drive to succeed at any cost and never allowing your failures to stand is something that this profession etched into my very being. I have faced crippling fear and overcame it. I can suffer long past where a normal man would give up. I am confident and driven and live for competition. You cannot feel what being alive means until you have come face to face with the reaper and spit in his face.

The flip side of the coin is something that we as a society need to look at changing. Even writing this I worry  about those I have served with and what they will think of me for having this opinion. We have to change the stereotype. We are losing soldiers on a daily basis to suicide. We lose them to the grips of substance abuse. We watch as they tear apart their own lives and their families with anger and depression. I have personally known 3 people who have killed themselves because they couldn’t handle the demons that were inside of them. How can we stop it? You can make any number of hotlines and support groups you want, but the real change needs to come from inside the infantry. We ridicule and abuse any sign of weakness we see because weakness is something we can’t possibly tolerate. Weakness gets people killed. So we push on with injuries that we should probably have looked at. We don’t go to the doctor when we are sick. We don’t talk about all the fucked up shit we saw and did overseas. We were just doing our jobs. We excuse away all the rage directed at people who don’t deserve it. We think the best medicine when you are feeling down comes from the local liquor store. Whats worse is if we see someone else do any of those things we call them out for being weak, for having no heart, for being soft. So when the time comes, and life just gets a little too overwhelming we would rather put the gun to our head and pull the trigger than let someone see past that mask we wear.

We can evolve. We have to evolve. The whole goal of not showing weakness is to be able to endure the rigors of combat and make it out alive. You have to be strong for your buddies because you need to be to bring them home. It is a hard job. We take care of each other when we are overseas. We watch each others backs. We go through those hard times together and come out the other end and know that we have brothers for the rest of our lives. Why can’t we accomplish that goal and take care of each other without that stigma that is preventing us from getting help? If the goal is to have no weaknesses, then why have we fostered an environment where we hide those weaknesses instead of dealing with the root of the problem? Wouldn’t it make you better to be at your best instead? Why do we wait till our friends get that DUI, get arrested for domestic violence, and in the worst case, pull that trigger to see that they need help?

I was at a buddy’s house the other day and we were sitting there knocking a few back and bullshiting about the old days. We served together as squad leaders in the same platoon for two years and a trip to Afghanistan. This guy is the epitome of what you would expect from a seasoned veteran. Poster boy for the infantry. Purple hearts, medals with valor, high PT, great leader and overall stud. Not to mention the cockiest son of a bitch I ever met in my life. A true brother. We always competed with each other trying to have the best squad or get picked to be the main effort for training scenarios. Somehow my medical separation came up and I told him I was shocked to see how much was wrong with me. I went from a sleep study and one diagnosis for narcolepsy and all of a sudden I have a shrink, I am getting psych tests, I am getting treated for TBI, I am on all kinds of medication and I told him the fucked up thing is that I still wont allow myself to belive that any of it is real. I know rationally that whats going on inside of me is abnormal but I find it easier to just write it off. Now I love him to death but I kind of figured I was gonna get mocked but he surprised me and told me about all the things that were wrong with him. Turns out he has been having a pretty tough time himself which I would have never known if he did not allow himself so share with me. I was shocked he did and honored that he trusted me enough to let me into that vulnerable place that we as war fighters rarely allow ourselves to go. We sat there and had a good laugh about it. We laughed about hiding it from people. What the fuck do we have to prove to anyone? We have already proved we can do it. Why does it matter what other people think?  We finally came to a conclusion. We accept all those things because they are normal. That is how I felt since I can remember. Hell, I enlisted at 18 and have spent the majority of my adult life this way. He asked something that really made sense to me. Wonder what it would feel like to be normal?

We will never know because we are who we are and we have done what we have done. Its shaped who we are as men and I truly belive that we are better for it as long as we can be honest with ourselves and know it comes with a price. A price we all pay in one form or another. Guilt, anger, and regret are the new enemies that could defeat us if we don’t face them. I see the best of us choosing isolation rather than seeking out someone to talk to because everyone else seems to be doing fine. None of us are fine but refuse to let it show. Refuse to show that weakness.  I know now that seeking out help gives us the best chance to get as close to what normal should be. At the end of the day, no matter who you are, your gonna have to hang up the uniform and try to be a member of a foreign society called civilian life. Your gonna have to accept who you are stigma or not. You may have been a grunt and done some shit but allowing yourself to admit your weakness and fix the problems is just as courageous as duking it out in a firefight. I know I didn’t give up all that time and effort deployed watching your back for you to come home and die by allowing these new enemies to win. So do me a favor. Take the time after you read this to give somone you know who has lived this life a call. Check in every once in awhile. Show them that even though you arent together every day fighting for our lives in those remote shitholes, they are not alone and you still have thier backs. Who knows, you may save a life.

57 thoughts on “Stigma. The ‘Not-So-Silent’ Killer.

  1. I was never a member of your elite force,not deployed to the desserts of the Middle East,but I know combat,and have witnessed the atrocities that come with it,and want you to know,that even though we can’t exchange “War Stories”,that we can still call each other Brother,and share the new front of civilian life,and if any of you wish to reach out,send me a friend request,or a private message,and I will do all I can,and will help where possible. ~The Bear~

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    1. Thank you for writing this and bringing it to light. I need to make one point: there is no such thing as a “normal” person….

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  2. Good article. We need to tell people, particularly our fellow vets, that PTSD is real, manifests itself in many way and needs to be treated. I served in RVN as an 11B in the late 60s and early 70s and I still wake up screaming in middle of the night. It won’t go away unless you get help, but with treatment you can control your symptoms and lead a happy and productive life.

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  3. Idk if I was to read the whole rant but I couldn’t keep reading out of anger. No I was not Army Infantry but I saw war, I know many others who watched their wingman die beside them and they were not infantry hell they were not Army they were Air Force! Everyone in every branch was used where the government wanted the reguardless branch, job and sex. So PTSD is everywhere in anyone talk about it no matter what your job was, station, branch, sex, or generation of service. For you “ego filled boys” get off your horse and realize it’s ok to talk. To you all who dealt with other horrors of being in the military at war talk about it. Call or chat with the veterans crisis line. They help.

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    1. I am a proud 11B, and I was angry at the beginning of this, because it implied that my depression and PTSD are weak, that the constant pain I feel, both physical and emotional, are a blight on the reputation that I should be upholding as a grunt, and a leg at that. But unlike you, I continued to read before I disparaged the man who wrote it or the men he honors. The distinct pride we feel as infantrymen is because we chose a profession and a path that WOULD, not Could, put us in harm’s way. There is a bond of facing, staring down, and overcoming our fears in order to literally live to fight another day. A deep breath let out, shaking your head in relief while sweat mixed with blood and dirt, camo and spent carbon flies from your brow (or do rag), only to share a grin. A grin that begins tight and smells of nerves, but is quickly mingled with thanks for a back well watched, and for loss at a nearby back, now slumped. The grin tightens still, as it adds anger and determination, followed by a quick check of ammo and equipment, a redistribution if needed, an unspoken HOOAH, and a move out order to reengage. If that comes off as coccky, than so be it. You’ll get no apology here. You and yours were not meant to be insulted. We appreciate the rides and the air support. Seriously, I appreciate and thank all who served and serve, who face dangers and uncertainties at all levels. Who ask as compensation, only the respect of their brothers (and sisters) in arms. The article was written though, not to glorify ourselves or put down others, but to clearly state that an image upheld at all costs is not nearly as important as the silent struggles that bond us as well. The cost in lives lost and destroyed is too high a price to pay for the face of bravery, when in fact the brave and strong thing to do is ask for help. To lean on those who have pladged to be there for one another and have proven it time and again, with no conditions and no judgement. We ALL need to spread this message, now and into Veteran’s Day as well as beyond. This is easy for me to post anonymously, as I have struggled with the shame of it for 20 years amid a system that could not care less. But for this new generation we can do better. We MUST do better!!! HOOAH……..now Move Out!!!!!!!

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    2. Typical POG response. You do not read the entire post, however feel qualified to make an intelligent comment. This “ego” that you speak of is of the utmost importance for a Grunt to do his job effectively. If you do not think you and the men around you are the baddest in the valley… You do not stand a chance. That “ego” bonds, motivates, inspires, and allows one to overcome the most debilitating of weaknesses….fear. Courage is not the absence of fear…it is being scared to death…but having the confidence and fortitude to do what needs to be done regardless. We do, as the post suggests need to evolve. We need to be able to be honest and open in order to get the help needed to deal with demons. However…it is not a “switch” that can be turned on and off at will.

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  4. “22” is a number 22 is one every 1.9 per hour those are just numbers but behind those numbers are soldiers people who endeavored so much only to come back and leave the world to soon. If anyone wants to come to Colorado or is in Colorado contact me I am the CEO of wounded veterans waterfowl club “for veterans by veterans” we take veterans disabled veterans young children and women out hunting waterfowl even if you don’t care to harvest birds we can share experiences talk about how we can help you and build on the bond of brotherhood. Please contact us if you feel you don’t have a support system we are here to support you!

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    1. I am in Colorado and I need help, and I was a PIG that supported the INF I know what they went through. I was in combat been blown up shot at been on cop attacks. PTSD is not why we have out CAB.

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  5. Reblogged this on From wayward boys to Soldiers. and commented:
    “For those of you who have served, especially in the infantry, you know that there is a stigma when it comes to the profession of combat. Weak is the only four letter word that someone could call you that could possibly hurt you. The infantry is a profession for hard men who lead hard lives. We take no shit. We fight for fun. We drink more than we should. We have an invented derogatory name for those who were not man enough to join the profession of dispensing freedom one 5.56 at a time.

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  6. im PROUD of my CIB 198TH LIB B. CO 1/52ND 67/68 I WAS DRAFTED and served my country we did what we had to do then if we were lucky you returned home it took me 32 years to get help from the VA best move I ever made I pray for my kia buddies every day of my life ! I belong to Chapter # 4 Canandaigua NY DAV we help many veterans get the benefits they have earned ! and the help they need

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  7. well said, i have my CIB, Blue Rope and Disk’s in a display case. No one can possibly understand what we have lived unless they have lived it also. It escapes description but you said is very very well. God Bless you brother.

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  8. Amen brother, wasn’t infantry, just a medic, but we all need to look out for each other. Glad you wrote this, and welcome home brother.

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  9. Thank you for sharing your life. My brother posted this and I appreciate everything he has done ……but didn’t know the struggles

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  10. Share this with every military man and woman you know thats cycling back home after a tour. Be it from vietnam to the current action. I have never been in ,not for lack of trying in the past, though i feel this will really help our brothers and sisters get back to living. STAY STRONG MEN AND WOMEN OF THE U.S. ARMED FORCES THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE PAST AND PRESENT. I may not have been in definately not in combat but im here if ya need the help getting back to the civilian life. If you are in Indiana get at me on facebook. Im civilian but come from a long proud military family. My father is 56 years old and i still watch him struggle with this civilian life. You dont have to talk about your experiences you dont have to relive it just talk about and admit the effects you face now because of it.

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  11. Well…… Great Story for sure, sad part is that OK we can tell stories but until the problem (VA) is fixed from inside there will never be peace. I understand people will ready this and say Ohhhh this guy is just complaining, not get it twisted I’ve been in 4 hostel theaters and it wasn’t till my last in Afghanistan in 2011 that I saw how corrupt our Government truly is. I was blown up from an PPIED along with 2 of my other buddies. I lost most of my left side……. Sorry was gonna go into a rant but I caught myself. So love the words to read, but until our Government decides to stop being greedy and to really help people then doesn’t matter what’s written here NO One really care the stats prove that.

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  12. I have nothing but respect. I was married to an infantryman who almost killed me out of his anger and demons you speak of. All this talk of weakness and talking to others about PTSD. Why isn’t alcoholism one of these weaknesses, instead of hailed as normalcy and necessity for these soldiers?. This article makes me so sad.

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  13. Mike,

    Your blog came to me by way of a female vet’s Facebook post. The battle with self, with who we seem to be against who we really are may be particularly intense for those like yourself, and you’re not alone, just of a unique tribe. Check out the Code Green Campaign if you’re unfamiliar with it. EMT’s and other first responders have been bringing attention over the last year or so to the pain of suicide among their ranks.

    Circumstantially, it was one of my son’s best friends, Joey Green, who took his own life while an EMT in Spokane that gave birth to the movement. They’re on Facebook and have a website. The “Green” may be coincidental, but to those who knew him, and especially to his parents, sisters, and close friends, it will always be about him.

    We survive, get stronger, and share to help others live long, productive, and, yes, happy lives, but it takes time and it takes pain, pain that’s handled without the common “pain killers.” Make sure you’ve got a good buddy system, and go where the fear and pain take you, safely.

    On the other side, I’m convinced from my own, different, yet similar experience, that there is a place where you will find yourself, and those who know you will be forever grateful. It may be a Valhalla of the spirit, to be felt while living, breathing, and loving those around you.

    It’s a Herculean task, but well worth it. Best of luck and courage.

    A grateful citizen.

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  14. PTSD-Realizing you’re never going to be as awesome as you were while in theater. Jokes aside…there is so much truth to this. I’ve already shared this with my therapist. Makes so much sense. Thanks for posting Mike.

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  15. Thank you for posting this. I too belong to the brotherhood of war fighters that wears the infantry blue. I was just like this thinking others were weak and inferior until I became one of them.

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  16. A big part of the problem is the first paragraph. The idea that being a professional warrior requires one to be a hard drinking, arrogant, womanizing douche-bag who has to put down everything around them is THE problem. We are reveling in the very behavior that makes dealing with the trauma of combat MORE difficult to handle. Substance abuse in combat veterans? Why is that a problem when, prior to combat, we drink ourselves stupid? Families being torn apart after combat? Why is that a problem when we objectify women as targets to deny other men and then find ourselves shocked that intimacy is impossible after combat?

    Do vets realize that this culture is a relatively recent phenomena? Dick Winters was Mormon. No women, no drink, and a spirit of humbleness – and he is one of the great military leaders of our time. How is that possible? The greatest warriors of history weren’t drunken slobs, they were professionals. Crusader Knights lived lives of warrior monastery. The Prophets armies crushed their enemies and conquered half the known world AFTER Mohammed banned drinking. The great clash at Gettysburg had Union and Confederate Armies that were practically sober to the man on both sides. I have yet to examine a crucial battle or campaign in history in which womanizing, drinking, or debauchery contributed to success or victory. I have studied plenty of campaigns in which narcissism and arrogance have lead to disaster (not the least of which are Iraq and Afghanistan – which I got to see close up on several occasions).

    In sharp contrast, the Balkan raiders who raped and traumatized Souther Europe often did so drunk – directed to the mayhem by ‘warrior’ leaders who extolled the very values of the opening paragraph. The Somali warlords deliberately drug their Soldiers with khat before unleashing them on innocents. And this is the warrior culture we emulate?

    Maybe its time we examined our warrior culture, because we sure as hell are not the first people to engage in the brutal realities of combat. We are the first of an all volunteer military to face the crushing realities suicide and despondency after battle.

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    1. It’s way more fun to know you’re better than everyone and tell them that, then to be better and not tell anyone. Being a cock strong, beer drinking, badass is what made me want to be infantry. Being in the army and not being infantry is like having Megan Fox in your bed and settling for a hand job.

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      1. Well, congrats – you managed to become an internet troll instead – a person incapable of commenting with any intelligent insight on the record level of suicides in your fellow ‘bad ass’ infantryman. In fact, my first investigation as an Infantry Major was into what caused three Soldiers in the same squad to commit suicide (one through suicide by cop in Salt Lake City as a matter of fact). But I am sure that your arrogance will stave off the demons that plagued them. I am sure your substance abuse being glamorized will not have the effect its had on them. (Yep, third suicide was right after a DUI). I am sure that YOU are the billy bad ass that hundreds of infantryman before you were not.

        But let me know when your imagination of getting Megan Fox anywhere near you is popped by reality. Do you really think that simply because you are a ‘bad ass’ infantryman and ‘no woman is sleeping with anyone else within a 50 mile radius of infantrymen’ has even a shadow of truth to it? (Somehow hospital maternity wards keep cranking out babies even when you and your buddies are gone – and for some reason all those other MOS’s seem to have marriages and barracks trash as well – shocking)’. Because what we all know is that being an infantryman is like being a drunk, stupid, frat boy and has absolutely nothing to do with studying your enemy, tactics or strategy, leadership, ethics, or any of that Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, or Combined Arms/Joint crap (Because infantrymen don’t ever call for fire or air support – which of course requires no planning, staffing, or logistics) that the Army spends billions of dollars teaching is leaders … who are apparently under the delusion that what really matters is pretending that Megan Fox wants to sleep with them rather than hollywood studs who make millions for pretending to do what we actually do. I mean its obvious by the sheer number of infantryman she’s dated, right?

        As a PROFESSIONAL infantryman, I am sure you are well versed in CFF procedures and are aware of the air space deconfliction that is required to fire shells 30,000 feet into the air that is crowded with helicopters, drones, and fighter jets while keeping that deadly dance coordinated and synchronized? I am sure you understand what TAIS and AFATDS do? How they digitize that process and incorporate the ACO and meteorological data (because you are well versed in battlefield ballistics) directly from the USAF? How this shaves precious minutes and seconds off the CFF process, keeping the air space stacked with capability so that the artillery can be followed missiles and bombs from other platforms so that you can save the lives of your fellow Soldiers and take the lives of your enemies with calm, professional determination of true warrior?

        Or drunken Megan Fox fantasies. Yeah.

        Are we beginning to see the break between reality and the bubble we have placed around our warriors? Are we seeing anywhere a focus on hard and realistic training? A focus on ACTUAL PT to harden Soldiers for battle? Expertise in marksmanship in all conditions to garner an edge over an enemy? Terrain analysis? Digital integration of information and fire support systems? How about reducing extraneous taskings and training distractors to keep you focused on combat training? Or how about just plain old personal PROFESSIONAL conduct? You know, so we go into foreign countries as trusted professionals rather than arrogant douchebags who breed an insurgency through our own narcissism? Strangely, that douchebag attitude breeds the very violence that the delusional invincibility and integration of failed coping mechanisms that winds up causing the very suicides at issue here.

        We are supposed to be the strong who protect the weak, the honorable who sacrifice selflessly (not demand women and drink). We are supposed to the brave, quiet professionals who simply get the job done because it is who and what men of honor were born to do. You, however, can talk about getting a hand job from a celebrity – and the distinction between you as a ‘warrior’ and half retarded frat boy is what exactly? I am sure the ladies are as fooled as I am.

        Of course, as a company commander, the young infantryman that was reduced to hitting the ground and literally wrapping his arms around my legs in tears was just a pussy. Clausewitz, more than hundred years ago in analysis about battles that left tens of thousands of dead on European battlefields, had something to say about the terror of battle and the need for even mindedness using something called the Hegelian Dialectic. So I suggest you put down the Megan Fox posters and their pretenses and start mastering the profession. Respect is earned, not bought by simply joining the club your recruiter deluded you into believing and then demanding to be treated like a drunken ass clown rather than earning the respect the PROFESSIONALS did before you.

        If your leaders are not pounding that into your head – shame on them. And shame on you for not demanding to be lead like an actual warrior and being prepared for reality of combat as a professional.

        The really telling part? My Joint Assignment was with the USAF. Fighter pilots are also sold on the delusions of arrogance and drunkenness. Their leaders pop those bubbles very early in their careers and they wash out those too stupid or narcissistic to realize they have a hundred million dollars wrapped around their ass and dozens of Soldiers on the ground depending on THEIR PROFESSIONALISM and ability to get the fucking job done right and bombs planted in the right fucking spot. (Kinda like marksmanship over Megan Fox?)

        Strangely, despite a similar ‘warrior’ ethos, fighter pilots are not committing record levels of suicide. Even though everyone knows that no man within a 50 mile radius of any AFB with fighter jets isn’t getting laid when the pilots are home. Odd that.

        Learn your job kid. You EARN the right to be called an infantryman – so get to fucking work. Your life may depend on it more ways then your young mind is capable of grasping.

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      2. They are very much aimed at Mikediesel and all those who insist on wearing the badge of ‘infantryman’ without putting in the time and effort to actually be one. I have seen too many shitty leaders pump up young men with delusions of sexual grandiosity and debauchery that does nothing but camouflage the uncaring selfishness that pushes young men beyond their physical and mental limits not for victory in battle … but because they were the real pussies who could not stand up the brass and say no to superfluous taskings, spending time in meandering power point briefs rather than in the field with their Soldiers, and pointless re-entry in places like the Korengal Valley so they could get promoted.

        Its a hard business for hard men. If we are not preparing our young Soldiers for that reality; if we are pretending that alcohol is a substitute for the bonds formed through hard training (much less avoiding the dependency this focus creates) or that debauchery is any substitute for the mastery of the craft of battle … then we are failing them. The reality of this is that we are losing to an enemy in Afghanistan whose greatest weapon is comprised mostly of fertilizer, and the young men we send into that meat grinder are paying the price both on the battlefield and off for the failure to properly steward our forces.

        There is merit to being pushed beyond what you thought possible. There is something intrinsically wrong with sending young men into pointless battle and then pretending that the problem was that they were not ‘strong enough’ or that ‘alcohol and women’ were or are the solution to the problem.

        I have simply seen too many units who let their standards go to complete shit (spent years of my life picking up after them) and pretended that this was somehow taking care of Soldiers. Our young Soldiers who think they earned something just by joining the infantry need to be smacked down by some good NCO’s and Officers and taught the craft and values that will lead to actual victory – to actual honor.

        Shockingly, women also happen to be ACTUALLY be attracted to the same standards that make a true warrior. That is what creates a steady and successful relationship that breeds the intimacy required to share the burden of combat rather than hiding it until it breaks you. Sexual and alcohol addiction created by the ‘warrior’ mentality is an additional burden that must be broken by Soldiers whose trauma has pushed them beyond the limits of human endurance. We OWE them proper coping strategies and creation of conditions that allow them to mourn the loss of friends and work through the trauma of battlefield violence. And that process starts by telling our Soldiers what it means to be a real warrior and holding them to that standard.

        Our Soldiers suicide’s are our Leader’s failure. Any leader who can’t tell some pumped up jack hole that sleeping with a tavern slut and drowning in beer has no positive effect on battle and who enables that mentality rather than dragging that young stud to a range and beating the mastery of the profession and time honored ethic into his head has failed his Soldiers. Period.

        I watched leaders fail to do it. I have seen the butcher’s bill paid in full as a result. I have no problem telling young infantrymen to stuff their cocks in the pants, get the rucks on their back, and to follow me. An infantryman who took the time to master the craft and can dangle all those platforms above their heads, who can set proper conditions and produce required battlefield effects, so by the time an infantryman has to stack on a door the enemy is isolated, fixed, and ready to be dealt his death. That includes mastering ethics and understanding the complex battlefields of today’s wars (because we take the time to study our enemy) and using a cup of tea and some compassion born of selflessness to avoid an unnecessary fight altogether.

        I was in Afghanistan when BG Sinclaire was busy banging at least seven different women and he and his cronies were busy mastering the mentality Mikediesel finds so appealing. Perhaps he’d like to meet PFC Miller’s mother and explain what exactly happened to the son she will never see again? Perhaps he would like to see if really is that cock sure hero who had to stand against that mentality as a leader while that butcher’s bill was paid? To feel what its like to hear the whisper of ‘another one’ as the reaper continues his slow harvest well past the time of battle and crushing guilt of any leader worth his salt feels when agonizing about what more they could have done?

        What can be done is to beat down pride and properly train and educate our young men – to mentor them into warriors so that we all know that when the inevitable toll of combat is paid that everything that could be done was done. We are the strong who protect the weak. We are the selfless who go where no others will go. We are the brave who willingly face danger. In the end, all we have is each other. No one owes us anything. We owe each other everything. We infantrymen owe our fellow infantrymen the duty of standards and ethics.

        It is an honor and terrible burden to lead young infantrymen into battle. We who willingly take up that burden owe our Soldiers everything. That is the burden of leadership. The subject you touch on is our failure.

        Robert E Lee was once asked about what it took to be great leader and his answer was prescient for any infantryman, “Teach him to deny himself.” What Mike spews runs afoul of the wisdom of combat known for generations. I would be a poor infantryman indeed if I let Mike keep his illusions and put his life within range of the reaper without a fight. Leaders give you what you need, not what you want.

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      3. I agree. I unfortunately have moderation power on these comments and didn’t know what thread it was posted under. I lose a lot of people in the first few paragraphs of banter to set up my point. I wrote about leadership in another post. Granted my experience was on a much smaller scale and on the enlisted side of the house. Your words still ring true but so does the phrase “you can’t fix stupid” unfortunately too much fun in the sun in Iraq and Afghanistan cut my time in service short so I can no longer effect change on that front. Fight the good fight sir.

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      4. Well, I hate to sound like a broken record, but I disagree. Let me pitch some statistics for you. Less than 1% of Americans serve in any capacity in the military whatsoever. Of the over 300 million Americans, less 500,000 serve in any capacity in the Active Army. We currently have 32 brigades which average about 4,000 Soldiers (HBCT, IBCT, SBCT) about half of which are Infantrymen. That leaves us with a force of about 64,000 Infantryman (on a good day, because HRC is actually moving Soldiers around in the ARFORGEN process to keep only a 1/3 of these brigades in a ‘ready’ state). ee had ten additional brigades at the height of the wars, given us a whopping 84,000 infantryman to be fielded in two wars. Many deployed more than once, leaving us with continuously dwindling pool of combat veterans.

        You know the difference. You know what its like to walk through FOB Victory around the Baghdad Airport after being the streets of Baghdad, Mosul, of Baquba (Or Bagram and Kandahar after being in places like Maiwand and the Arghanbad) and the almost surreal atmosphere of coming to a place were people are standing in line for fast food lines, living in CHU’s, and complaining because their 8 hour shift went long because of some distraction like ‘combat’ – where the most terrifying thing faced were unguided rockets that routinely hit … absolutely nothing. (Compare that to terror of having recoils rifle round burst through the compound wall of the building you are in and seeing Taliban screaming toward the breech).

        You are not just the 1%, you are, quite literally, the 1% of the 1%. YOU are the reality of the policy decisions that were made in Washington. It wasn’t just American that went to war after 9-11. the entire Western World recognized the toxicity that was pouring out of Afghanistan and decided to do something about it. Together, 1 billion people collectively expressed their disgust, but only a few tens of thousands had the mettle to actually to something about it. Our country decided a brutal dictator had to go, and if this were a war decided by the commander and chief – once again, only a few tens of thousands would bear the full brunt of that decision. It is not special operations forces that walked those brutal patrols days in and day out. It wasn’t Ranger Regiment sitting on the compound walls while tribal sheiks more akin to mafia dons hatched things out with military leaders – and who bore the brunt of the reprisals and competing tribal counter attacks every day.

        That, was you. That was what your brothers did.

        Make no doubt about it, what you did mattered. A lot. The surge into Ira pulled that country back from the brink of utter chaos – pulled them back from a clandestine civil war in which hundreds of dead, usually brutally tortured, were found every day prior to men like you being unleashed. The same can be said in Afghanistan. The surge there pushed the Taliban back in the very fringes of the countryside, where even amongst the ‘vegetable people’ they were barely holding on. That is DESPITE all the missteps made before and after. If Iraq fell apart after we left, it sure as hell is not because our Soldiers gave them a golden opportunity to get it right. If the Taliban are resurgent, its not because our Soldiers were the ones who tolerated corrupt officials and kiddie rapers.

        In short, you have have no idea how singular you are inner society. You have no idea how honorable you are in our society. If civilians treat with kind of curiosity and distance, its not because they view you as wounded – its is because they recognize a man that they are definitely not. You didn’t go drinking of chase women (perhaps you’d did, but that is not what marked you as different). You went. You went into very dangerous places against a implacable and unreasonable foe who offered you no quarter and demanded none in return – and you are still here. You were called and answered.

        You also have a gift that not many of your fellow infantryman have. Not only do you write, but you write very well. Tell the story. Tell YOUR story. Tell your brother’s story. Don’t hold back the ugly bits or the uncomfortable bits. It needs to be told. If you don’t tell it, then what you and your brothers did will fade and be replaced by the slick propaganda of the modern military that is in search of the next Dick Winters, and the same thing that will happen to our current vets that happened to both him and Audie Murphy. (Both refused to participate in further wars, the former actually resigning his commission to avoid being sent back to Korea – yet that part does not show up in the official histories for some reason?). Tell the story. Let the 99.9% that was not there no what the cost of being there really was. Just like Vietnam, they may be uncomfortable – but deep down they want to know. They want to know how best to support those few among us who answered the call on their behalf. They cannot if we remain silent and in the shadows, battling demons alone.

        Please remember that American Vietnam vets returned to scorn and disdain. It was the methodical telling of their stories that lead our society to reconsider the roll our veterans played. Its why we remember Hal Moore and not the hippies. Its why we fault SECDEF MacNamara and GEN Westmooreland rather than our Soldiers. The same thing will happen through you, and others, that tell the story. It needs to be told.

        You may consider yourself wounded, and surely bear the scars of combat. I will also tell you that you are in many ways forged and tempered by the experience. American vets returned from WWII and lead the US to become an economic juggernaut. When the US economy faltered after the Vietnam War, US veterans played no small role in wringing the US back onto the straight and narrow. Our country finds itself in a similar situation. You remain disciplined. You remain strong in ways that most civilians will never appreciate. You remain level headed and logical. You remain an invaluable asset.

        Finally, there is the reality of what veterans bring to the overall process. You say that you are out and that your ability to influence is lost? You are, to be blunt, wrong. There are 120 generals (yep, for 32 brigades) in the US Army. How much influence did you have on the organization as an NCO? Given that general officers have a lucrative civilian career awaiting them with the defense industry, you can see why the competitive evaluation system often produces screwed ethical results. Organizations like the VFW were created not just to service veterans and their needs, which are being revitalized by a new generation of combat veterans, but they give clout and voice to our combat veterans in the larger system. They directly connect to the House and Senate, and – key point – every officer promotion list from Major on up must be approved by Congress. The VFW wields significant political power on behalf of veterans , but it, like the wider public, needs to know your story – needs to know what our Soldiers need in order to advocate for it.

        There are others, like REP Duncan Hunter (Former Marine) who ran specifically to correct some of the egregious errors he saw in combat. LTC Jason Amrine owes him his honorable retirement. Captain Swenson got his medal of honor after his comments about less then stellar leadership pissed off the brass and they reprised against him. And many others.

        If any veteran reads this, then I strongly urge them to remember what they are. They are the cream of the crop. They are the .1% of Americans who will go where no other man will go. They were the ones brave enough to put their bodies on the line for their beliefs and for each other. YOU are the ones who pushed our enemies right up the very gates of hell, an iron that our enemy could not break. One does not make it through combat without scars. Yet those things that marked you as among the best remain among the best and always will.

        Our Soldiers, our infantryman, are not the problem – they are the solution. For every knucklehead that I had to bounce out of service, there were 134 other stalwart performers. Every morning, I woke up privileged to know that I was literally among the cream of crop. That remains the case.

        Tell the story. Keep writing. Get involved. You absolutely have no idea just how good you are. As one who was privileged to have lead men like you – I have no doubts whatsoever about what you and your brothers are capable of. You were the man that brought terror to our enemies. You were also the man that your brothers could rely on in any and all circumstances. That later skill set is as rare and as valuable as the very rarest of treasures. Your ability to influence change, to make a positive difference, to help shape understanding of service did not end when you left – it just started.

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      5. Right in the feels Eric, right in the feels. Your right of course. I think it’s hard to see the big picture in that way sometimes. I don’t like taking credit for any of it. I’m just glad I was afforded the opportunity to make my small contribution with the best this country has to offer. My brother. I’ll keep writing. It’s cheaper then a shrink. I’ll have to think on all you said. A lot to take in. If you are not already finding an outlet for your wisdom you really should. One that reaches the masses. We need walk up calls every once and awhile. One I gained trough a perspective I couldn’t see or refused to. Thank you.

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  17. Good article; I was 11B1V and 13 Foxtrot for the 1/75th between 1986-90. My time was served mainly in Central America(Panama,Honduras) nothing like what you guys have to do today in the Middle East.

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    1. Any veteran, any branch, any MOS, any T.O. , if you need to connect with someone who understands the demons, do so immediately. I was 56A and continue to this day to serve my brothers and sisters with their spiritual and emotional needs. My oath never expires and I will continue to do so until I reach End of Earthly Deployment. My organization is called “MEDICINE FOR OUR MILITARY, INC.” We are located in Northern California and you can find us on Facebook. 22 is a number YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE COUNTED IN!

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  18. Well written……truth! Only infantry gets the honor to wear the earned CIB …. Combat Engineers have long been denied authorization to wear this earned badge!

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