The Army teaches seven fundamental values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. These values are drilled into soldiers during Initial Entry Training (basic and AIT), but all too often mentioning them in conversation is an easy way to get jeers and muffled laughter. In today’s all-volunteer and unconventionally-tasked Army, though, I think those values are more important than ever, since we will be thrust into situations that aren’t black and white but very much shades of gray. This isn’t Iwo Jima or the Battle of the Bulge, where it’s Us versus Them and if you see Them you shoot him in the face and drive on.
I hate to sound preachy, because I’m a realist and I know that nobody is really a paradigm of virtue. Rather, a framework like the Army values is something to be used as a boundary line, a reasonable constraint on undisciplined behavior. But the lack of restraint and lack of perspective on the part of some of my comrades worries me sometimes, and it often strikes me as un-soldierly in nature.
Take, for example, the comparisons of some soldiers of our situation to that of being in prison. This comparison is disingenuous at best, and subversive at worst. For one, a very small percentage of people in our company have any experience with prison, so saying that we “might as well be in prison” has little rhetorical merit.
Two, even with our restrictions here, life at Fort Hood can hardly be called “prison-like.” Sure, we’re not allowed to drink or go off-post, but our days lately aren’t exactly packed with grueling labor, and furthermore, the fact that I’m sitting in my room surfing the goddamn internet more or less destroys any notion of this being an unreasonable hardship.
And three, we’re all volunteers. This is what bothers me the most – the idea that somehow, as college students and husbands and wives, as National Guard Signal soldiers, we are immune to deployment, service, or hardship. When I enlisted less than two years ago, did I think that I might find myself going to Iraq? Absolutely not, and I don’t think anyone else did. It’s true – it’s not what most of us signed up for. But that fact notwithstanding, we all stood in front a commisioned officer, raised our right hands, and said these words:
I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s a consequence of the “if it feels good, do it” culture that emanated from the 1960’s, or maybe it’s because of our instant-gratification, always-on, 24/7, Wal-Mart and internet e-commerce lifestyle – but some among us seem to have difficulty accepting restrictions on their activities, and cite their own desires as justification for flagrantly disobeying the orders of their superiors.
That’s the wrong answer. Maybe it’s perverse, but I take pride in the hardship I endure, because I can say that I volunteered for it, that there are others that would not or could not step up and do this task. And I can say, without conceit, that I am a better person for it.