When in uniform, I often find myself staring down at my boots as I walk. During AIT (Advanced Individual Training) it was mostly to make sure that my boots were still shiny and black, or at least shiny enough to avoid unwanted attention from wandering drill sergeants. When I got back to my Guard unit, it was mostly me saying to myself, “damn, I should’ve shined my boots before drill.” Since this deployment started, it’s mostly been “damn, my boots look like shit from running around in the dirt all day.”
Now, with my freshly-issued Belleville desert boots with the Vibram soles, it’s “damn, these boots are comfortable.” The old boots didn’t really bother me, but the new ones are just about as nice as a pair of tennis shoes (except that they no longer issue extra-wide sizes to fit my flipper-like feet – apparently all people requiring extra-wides will shortly be chaptered out of the Army or something; I’m making do with wides).
My boot-gazing happens for another reason, though: it’s a sort of perpetual reminder of where I am and what I’m doing and how unreal it seems sometimes. I look down and see my feet but I also see government-issue footwear. I also feel pride in the uniform I wear and the job that I do.
That leads me to wonder, though: am I too idealistic about soldiering? I see the stupid actions of others around me, the comments, the attitudes, and I’m disheartened sometimes. But I suppose it’s how soldiers have always been, and always will be. It’s hard to remember sometimes that not many have the high-minded view of our Army service that I do – indeed, many actively hate serving and can’t wait to get out. But maybe in the end that doesn’t matter, because despite whatever they say, they’re still here, and dislike of the Army won’t prevent them from taking care of each other and completing the mission. History won’t judge them as people who hated the service, but rather as men and women who served voluntarily, who went overseas when asked, and came back honorably.