by Philip Sharp
This morning I head to the bank to deposit a check. As I pull up to an empty parking lot, I also run into another gentleman who yells to me that they are closed.
“Why?” I asked.
“Veteran’s Day,” He replies.
And I didn’t even remember that today was Veteran’s Day! After an exchange of greetings we both discover the irony that both of us are veterans. We are veterans setting in an empty parking lot hoping to use a service that is not provided today because it is Veteran’s Day.
As I get home, I explain to my wife the somewhat humorous irony that I started my morning with. She is a huge reason that I was able to be the soldier I was. Faithful and supportive, handling many a fire in my absence, she seemed more attentive to the day than I was.
“What do you want for Veteran’s Day,” she asks as she lists off places to eat.
The question has now occupied a good part of my brain on this day, a day that I the veteran didn’t even think about. I simply didn’t want it reduced to a meal in a crowded place. There are many deals about for my kind, but it seems so factory-esque to me. Get in, wait a long time, get a table, wait a long time, get the meal, and then leave after waiting for the check for a long time. Is that really a celebration for someone with 20 years on the ground in the Infantry, three deployments to Iraq, and a busted up body? This dining experience never seemed to be the thing I wanted to celebrate Veteran’s Day.
“What DO I really want,” I thought to myself. I was somewhat dumfounded. Initially, I truly didn’t know. However, it didn’t take very long to figure what I truly wanted. I wanted the impossible. The impossible? Absolutely! Whatever could that be?
Before I list the impossible items I would like to have for Veteran’s Day, allow me to first express my fondness for the Army that I served. There were many great people, brothers-in-arms, and comrades, that was my privilege to sweat, bleed, and weep with. Often times, they were asked to do the impossible. They suffered, often pointlessly, because they were ignored or simply misused. Yet, there was no finer specimen of Americans to be with. The Army taught me many things. How to be a man. How to plan objectives and to order my day. How to roll with some serious punches. Some of my leaders became like real fathers to me. I have many fond memories for my time in the service and have a love for it still.
With that being said, allow me to state the impossible things I want for Veteran’s Day:
1) Hold Our Political Leaders Accountable There are many fine national servants and warriors who are simply wasted and mistreated for the sake of political dividends. Our leaders send the troops with no clear of idea of what they want them to do. There is no objective to achieve, and even if the not-so-clear ones are met, they continue to make up things as they go. They get lost in their own mess they make. How dare you whimsically fling some of the most devoted people of our society into a storm with no idea of what to do! Worse, we have leaders who were/are hoping for the military to fail to score some political advantage. When your leaders are hoping you fail, it is not conducive to an effective military. If troops must be used, then make sound decisions and actually back them! Surely the fall of Afghanistan paints the picture of our current culture of political/military decision making. If you tell me that it was a surprise, I will call you a liar. Our political leaders knew what was coming, and simply didn’t care.
2) Purge our Sorry Leaders in the Military Our fine troops are often led by the most undeserving incompetents, promoted simply for looking good on paper and it being their turn. Part of the reason is our political landscape greatly affects our military leaders and can encourage the wrong type to succeed. Recently, a submarine ran into a non-moving mountain in the South China Sea. Surely there were charts and our locating and detection equipment is the best in world history! Not long ago, destroyers had ran into container ships, vessels they could outrun and outmaneuver effortlessly. Yet, they run into them! Just a few years ago, an entire battalion simply did not show up to a firing range – not a single person! This is so impossible for me to conceive on so many levels. Even if the word was not put out, you mean to tell me not one commander was able to get the ball going and make the range happen?! These are just the events that make the news, and there is more not mentioned here. Our military has a poor leadership problem, and it has a discipline problem. I am an old soldier who served in a once fine army. To see the lack of leadership and discipline is a total shock to me now. The wrong things matter, and what matters is ignored. I don’t blame the troops. I blame the commanders and the fat pentagonal bureaucracy.
3) Start Trying to Actually Win Rather than Trying Not to Look Bad Not only do we not know what we are going to do when we get there, we have our hands tied in winning the given scenario regardless of what it is. There is such a fear of failure and embarrassment prevailing, that actual leaders and well trained and disciplined soldiers are too hemmed in to really accomplish anything. If a leader can simply not let anything embarrassing happen, even if they are not winning the situation, then they are considered a success and promoted. Get rid of those deadbeats and stop rewarding them! Let us actually try to win for once!
4) Reward the Deserving, not a Tiered Rank Structure I know too many good soldiers who never got a medal they deserved, while many who were hidden or served on staffs got prestigious ones. Quite a few wrote their own award. How absolutely scandalous is that! I know one who contributed nothing to a fight, in fact only adding a sense of panic to it, who wrote himself a bronze star with valor device. Yet, there were soldiers actually facing the enemy who would get nothing. Awards were given by rank when people were not busy writing their own. Part of this is because one must look good on paper to get promoted. We need to measure a man’s character more than by what is on their own forged paper trail.
5) Train our Military to a High Standard Again Many of you may not believe me, but I stand by this. We don’t train our troops well enough. Our leaders are even trained far less, unless it is in the art of PowerPoint and sucking up. There is no excuse for this at all. We have troops who would honestly struggle to properly handle their weapons and equipment, but they can surely tell you political rhetoric they must repeat – they will spend countless hours being indoctrinated with little concern for actual warfighting skills. Our willful practices of degrading our warfighting capabilities when we don’t have to is damn near treason to me.
Now, I know. Some will disagree with me at some points and I bet you probably never even served. If you served and still disagree, it is because you benefit from the defunct system. Some would conjure a new force that is just more modern and thus different from what I remember. I agree it will be different. That is always the case regardless of time frame. Yet, the principles remain the same. We deserve better political leaders. We deserve the best people as our military leaders. We deserve to be rewarded for our sacrifice. We deserve the best training and equipment. Most of all, we deserve the backing of a nation that is often apathetic or risk averse. Many of you may say, yah, but how do we do all this? Exactly, I did say that I wanted the impossible for Veteran’s Day, didn’t I?