Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is This How We Treat Our Soldiers?

There is a story that came out this week about the Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden.  According to a story from the Center for Investigative Reporting and Esquire Magazine, this highly decorated combat veteran currently has no pension, no health care and no job.

I’ve spent most of the week trying to wrap my head around this concept. It was hard for me to imagine one of our most elite operators killed the most wanted man on the planet and we give him nothing. We offer him no reward, no safety net, no transition into civilian life. We toss him aside like a used condom.

Is this how we treat our soldiers?

As I listen and talk to more people about this story, I’m coming to the conclusion that it is not unique. Another former SEAL, being interviewed for The Takeaway said that it has always been this way ‘In the US military, the moment you stop being an asset, you become a liability’ and we get rid of you like soiled toilet paper.

Is this the fate that we want for our protectors?

Consider the sacrifice that elite special forces have to endure to even do their job. Most of them give up their bodies, sanity, relationships and families. Some of them give up their lives. Now consider the rewards that they get; elite training that they can’t use in the civilian world, stories they can’t tell, medals they can’t show, poverty, pride and the enduring connection to the people they served with. The satisfaction and camaraderie that these shooters enjoy comes at an extremely high price. Based on the way we repay them, our country hardly deserves their sacrifice.

Is this how we treat our heroes?

What does this state of affairs say about America, a country that leans so heavily on our military strength? What does this say about you and I who are citizens of this country? Jaded shame is the only honest response I can feel. Shame because I benefit from something fundamentally unfair and jaded both because I’m not really surprised and I know that I won’t care enough about this issue long term to do anything to change it.

As a writer, I try to use the news to enhance my work. The rejection mentality that these men feel will definitely play a role in the mentality of my characters. For some, it will be fear of civilian life. For others it will reveal itself as pessimistic mercenary greed. If this Esquire story is true, then in many ways our soldiers are too good for us. The least I can do is recognize their experience with my craft.

Have fun.

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