I learned early, there is no way to un-pull a trigger. The bullet, free of the casing and barrel, flies straight and true, and impacts precisely where it was aimed. The finality of that impact, and the pain it brings, spreads out like a wave on the water. The wave engulfs the target, the shooter and everyone nearby, and continues outward, washing over wives, husbands, sons and daughters, and of course, parents.
No, once the trigger is pulled, and the target downed, all that is remains is the grief, and the hollow, impotent need to have it undone.
We are a society of consumers, and as such, it seems the cost of our consumption is often ignored. We expect our cars to be better, our homes to be larger and our bank balances to remain strong. We collectively luxuriate in the knowledge that we employ the most powerful military in the history of man, and yet, somehow, find a way to see past the price the individual warrior pays to guarantee that power. We complain about the multi-billion dollar cost of ships, planes and bullets, but remain strangely silent on the subject of the price paid by each, individual warrior.
In the end, it seems we are more concerned about the budget than we are the men and women who insure our way of life. Although we pay a dollar for a colorful little magnet to put on our automobile, and shake our heads when we hear of another casualty, the bottom line isn’t the people, it’s the money.
It is decadence.
It is a decadence born of perceived, self-indulgent privilege and greed. It’s a decadence firmly based on the promotion of self and the trivialization of the blood and suffering of those who finance our success with their tears, suffering and lives.
Combat veterans speak of the life-altering price exacted by conflict. They speak of the hollow sense of grief created by simply surviving, and the soul crushing impotence of not being able to help/save/protect everyone. They speak of the cost of conflict, but only amongst themselves. Why? Because they understand their sacrifices and suffering are of less interest to the country than Wall Street, Hollywood and partisan politics.
I learned early in my life that I couldn’t un-pull a trigger. I couldn’t un-see the carnage. I couldn’t un-feel the loss of friends, and I couldn’t un-taste the rancid flavor of conflict—nor I could not un-hear the song of death, as it danced so near.
I still can’t.
Combat has extracted the same towering price from warriors throughout the ages, and for some reason, we, the most affluent, and successful society in history, continue to turn our eyes away from those who serve, as we measure our financial success against our neighbors.
Watch tonight’s news. All the proof you’ll need is right there.
Here’s the secret only warriors know, the secret only they can understand. They don’t fight for you. They don’t fight for this country. They don’t fight for the flag, a political philosophy or the perpetuation of democracy. They fight, shoulder to shoulder, for the person to their right and the person to their left. If wounded, they seldom want to leave the field, knowing that if they do, there will be one less to protect the others. They serve and fight knowing someone has to. It is a duty they take neither lightly nor without fully understanding the ultimate price.
John Wayne didn’t win the Second World War, and Patton was a pompous, self-promoting, uninformed fool for striking a shaking soldier, and yet both are perceived by our society as revered warriors.
It’s not like Hollywood, it’s like Hell, and by not respecting and honoring the sacrifices of our warriors, we further pave our path towards an inevitable societal demise.