I had planned to make the military a career, but after Vietnam I chose not to re-up to start a new life with a new profession armed with a college degree. Perhaps two and a half years "in-country" was too much war for too long and too controversial, yet my return to civilian life proved challenging in a world without the discipline and direction I'd been accustomed to for four years.
In the military we wore the same uniform, yet rank distinguished our differences. Race, creed or color, a grunt was still a grunt and saluted a general. In the early 1970s, everybody on campus wore the same uniform: blue jeans and pullovers making political statements, yet no distinguishing ranks. Race, creed or color, long hair and a plethora of denim even made gender-identity difficult.
After college my exposure to Corporate America created a yearning for character, proper conduct, and companions that covered your back instead of inserting sharp knives tuned to a fine edge by sharper tongues. In the military the mission came first, and then, by God, you took care of your people. Corporate America preached a concept of money first, second, always, and don't worry about your people; manipulate and use them.
Our military pay was low, but we didn't have to worry about health care, clothing, shelter or food. In civilian life you overpay for health care, don't have it, or fall victim to Medicaid. Clothing is an option in certain areas of San Francisco, yet for those of us that choose to clothe ourselves we're required to pay exorbitant prices for so-called designer threads stitched together by slave labor behind locked warehouses on foreign soil. What we call shelter in civilian life has turned into a lost-equity albatross around our necks that seems to be gaining weight. And speaking of gaining weight, civilian food, according to our government, is killing us, fatsos that we are, if not Astroturf or patriotic terrorists, if you care to believe Nancy Pelosi.
In the military we learned, and if necessary carried, weapons to defend ourselves and each other. I'm still appalled that in civilian life untrained youngsters feel the need to carry weapons to school in order to defend themselves from each other. When sent by the military for advanced training you shut the hell up and learn what the hell you're told to learn. In civilian life teachers wrestle for attention from the students, blase parents, overpaid administrators and equally blase politicians.
In the military there's a chain of command; in civilian life the concept of "it's all about me" seems to destroy any hope that even the Commandments are obeyed. In war men call for their mothers and pray to God. In Washington our representatives call each other nasty names after they open each session of Congress with a prayer, something our children are not allowed to do in school or before a bruising game of football.
When in the military a "yes ma'am" or "no sir" is required as proper respect and knowledge that you wear a uniform to serve, not rule. Out here in La-la land a "yes sir" or "no ma'am" is a rarity due to no respect and too many rulers. In the military you mind your manners; in civilian life obedience is obsolete.
Is there hope? Oh, yeah. They're coming home, from Afghanistan and Iraq, and they're ready to face challenges that need to be faced, dealt with and solved, with honor and dignity. Yes, sir, there's hope.
-- Pete Mecca