Sunday, November 3, 2013

Brothers in Arms

Anyone who has ever served in the service can not only give you the definition of the Brotherhood, but can give you a description so finite as to make Websters seem inadequate. 

The reason is those of us who joined live and breath the same fetid air. Eating at the same trough and when the shit comes stand shoulder to shoulder, taking and giving in equal measure to ensure our brothers in arms live to see another sunrise.

And even when the calling of war remains a distant and immeasurable theory the gargoyles who haunt the horizon and seek to strike, harm upon your brothers in arms is not an immediate concern, you remain steadfast in both their safety and welfare.

The quality of those who stand up and volunteer to take an oath of safety and security is bar none and second to no other force in the world. 

For those who seek the safety and shelter under the guise of military support there is the belief that the oath taken by those who serve do so at the behest of God and Country. In truth their reasons are far more simplistic and self serving in nature. 

Young men who are from humble beginnings and backwater small towns who recognize their futures are bleak and will be mired in lifelong pursuits of happiness, but understand that in the end their lives will amount to little more than nothing.

When the recruiter in his starched uniform shows up at the doorstep of an impressionable teenager with slick brochures and videos produced by civilian marketing firms the feeling of belonging to something greater than oneself permeates a young man's brain like a meth addict taking their first hit. Its at this time the young man in question falls completely under the spell of God and Country.

The truth is that spell lasts until he is in boot camp and understands the men he serves with are depending on him to keep the gargoyles at bay. The notion of God and Country becomes a distant memory and the immediate knowledge the Brothers whom he stands beside are the real reason behind the oath that is taken in a windowless room that has seen the likes of him and thousands of others who have stood in the same place for similar reasons.

The bonds of servitude are replaced by brotherhood and the knowledge that at any time there could come a time when you are asked to serve a much higher calling. During such times the shared experiences of those around you meld you together in a place and time others can neither imagine nor understand.

When the real application of guns and blood bring you and those who stand beside you to a place where the cost of your reality is a real time movie played out before you. The script, written by the almighty and the ending dictated by the gargoyles who charge your position and with the all vitriol of Dantes sonnet. 

Ask any veteran of war, why they performed acts of indescribable selflessness in the face of certain death and the answers you get has nothing to do with God and Country. Instead, you get men who afterward are almost meek and unassuming in their answers. Their only concern is for those who they have the same indescribable shared experiences.

This is where the bonds of Brotherhood are forged in the extreme. But the bonds forged by those who wear a uniform and stand shoulder to shoulder and never see the blood and destruction of his fellow man are just as strong and run just as deep. Their time together on far away longitudes are not to be discounted nor are they to be diminished by the lack of an actionable location.

For all of us serve together. Race, politics and religion take a second tiered place to the safety and well being of those who took an oath and live and die together. Letters from home are shared and consumed together. Their lives, hopes and dreams live in a cloud as one.

And the moral shortcomings that abound when young men visit distant shores are not visited upon loved ones at home. Their secrets are more closely guarded and kept better than any mission visited upon them by white haired men in foul fitting suits whose perches are cemented in the hallowed halls of Washington.

They laughed at the follies of their brothers. Rejoiced in their success and cried in their pain. During my time in uniform I knew the names of their kids and wives. Sought counsel and gave my counsel to those who I served with. The troubles I lived with whereas known to me as they were to those whom I served with.

The secrets of our lives were safer in the confines of the metal hull we all lived beneath. 

And after the enlistment was over and we all returned to the bosom of our homes the brotherhood I had known washed away. All of us were scattered to the winds of time. Each of us taking the time spent together and storing it away.

Today it's nearly 25 years ago and thanks to social media the bonds of brotherhood forged so long ago has reattached itself to my everyday life. Thankfully, I am in the knowledge that those I spent so much time with are succeeding in their individual pursuits. 

May the Happy Valley live forever.

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