As some of you may know, I come from a military family. My paternal grandmother estimated we had at least 150 years of service on my father’s side alone. At the age of ten, I was homeschooled for a year just outside of Washington, D. C. when my father was on active duty in the area. While there, we visited Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
I never really understood war until the day I stood in Arlington Cemetery. Rows and rows and rows and rows of little white graves. Deaths as far as the eye could see. So many eighteen-year-olds. So many families who never got to celebrate their homecoming. So much sacrifice to the ever-hungry gods of war. Seeing that, I understood for the first time what war really meant, what war really was, what sacrifice truly entailed. I wish everyone in America could stand there at least once, those with the power to send us to war most of all.
Oftentimes I don’t feel like a “real” military brat, as I never lived on base and did not get the full military brat experience. However, I feel similarly foreign to the pure civilian experience and careless comments from friends or acquaintances will suddenly reveal this divide. It’s something that became more and more obvious from the age of 12 on, as our nation became increasingly polarized during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was something liminal, rejected by both sides, belonging to neither.
Yet today I never felt like more of a military brat. Today I saw a man who has continuously insulted our military, said he knows more than our generals, insisted he ‘feels like he was in the military’ despite multiple deferments, called POWs losers for being captured, callously disregarded Gold Star families, and equated his success with their sacrifice at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The sight flipped a switch somewhere in me that I didn’t even know was there, like some forgotten circuit breaker down in the basement. It sent me into a blind rage I didn’t know I was capable of. I used swears I didn’t know I knew and with a venom that seemingly came from nowhere. I literally screamed in rage. It was an insult that cut down deep into the marrow, triggering some primal response I had never needed until this moment. To see this man standing on such hallowed ground, amidst such potent, raw symbols of sacrifice, was a desecration, a corruption, an insult too profane for words.
This sad excuse for a man, who has never sacrificed a thing a single day in his life, is not worthy of even shining their boots. He knows nothing of sacrifice, nothing of duty, nothing of real patriotism, nothing of service, nothing of bravery. Nothing. He is the boy playing war, the summer soldier, the shallow patriotism of a fool who cuts and runs the moment it costs him, the moment it gets hard, the moment he is called upon to make any kind of real sacrifice.
He has earned nothing. He respects nothing. He deserves nothing. And his memory will be worn to nothing long before their sacrifice is forgotten.