RANGER AGAINST WAR: Veterans Day 2010 <

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010

I took a breath of fresh air

I took in the view at the top

--I'm Willing
, Ben Lee

And let each one perform some part,

To fill with joy the warrior's heart,

And we'll all feel gay when

Johnny comes marching home

--When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Patrick Gilmore

That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,

Yonder's the midden whose odors will madden,

That gap is the grave where the tall return

--O Where Are you Going
, W. H. Auden


This is a veteran's Day reminiscence.

Ranger has discussed training exercises, which were institutional lessons in misery as the soldier's lot. During training and in life I learned to disconnect and depersonalize to the point of neurosis, which is normal terrain for a soldier. I remember the beauty around me and my inability to see beyond my self-centered misery.

This misery was outwardly-imposed, but later in life it became self-imposed. Misery became a friend, and along with this was a hardness of spirit induced by training and experience. I do not an cannot complain or wimp out decrying the hardness that I voluntarily embraced. But I never thought I would become the hardness, and in turn would add more to the formula.

I developed a technique I called "blinking it off" to deal with unpleasantness or the need for violence. I will simply turn my head and blink, and when I turn back to the previous focal point I am then ready for whatever will happen. This is a conscious depersonalization developed for self-protection.

I have become the numb hardness that cannot be gauged on a Rockwell hardness test. Looking back, I did try to cut slack and go easy on those around me when it was possible, but I also expected them to respond to command. My humanity was a form of inhumanity. My sympathy had an end point surpassed by orders and the needs of the service.

The times I ran afoul of the system were those events when I tried to cut slack for myself and/or for those around me. There is no slack for a soldier, nor is any slack due. We acknowledge this and live within this harsh terrain. This interior is what makes us veterans.

It is not the flags or the parades, the uniforms or the medals. It is the thing that no one will ever see; it is in our minds and is unquantifiable. It is that willingness to obey.

I don't care that I chose a hard road, but I regret that I became the hard road. In modern terms, Ranger has embraced the suck. I also wonder why parents so readily send their offspring to this reality which crosses to unreality in the blink of an eye.

Well, anyway, I'm a veteran but I'll never again don a uniform nor will I ever attend a parade, but I still fail to see or acknowledge the beauty around me.

Beauty is not mission essential.

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Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

lucretia, my reflection, dance the ghost with me

Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 8:53:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


That's pretty rough.

BTB: Would your moniker arise from, "dance the ghost with me"?

Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 10:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Carl said...

A relatively untouched, rarely publicly discussed sphere of the core that I believe is an essential component of anyone involved, or has been involved in, combat against other human beings. Whether firing off rounds at an enemy on a battlefield or fiercely grappling close enough to breath the breath of your opponent, whose sole intention is to do you serious harm - IT has changed you. Forever. This metamorphosis and ensuing constant deep personal grappling is useless to attempt any kind of discussion with anyone who has never done so. Keep at it Jim.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 11:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

It goes beyond the act of combat.

My ex-wife could never understand why I couldn't enjoy hiking or backpacking. I would look at her like she had two heads; "What the fuck good is humping around in the boonies if you don't set up an ambush when you get there?"

It's the full-meal deal. Sorry to hear that you ended up marching on your chinstrap, man. Fuck it, don't mean nothin'. Drive on.

Friday, November 12, 2010 at 1:26:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

no Lisa. just capturing Jim's extraordinary pathos and extrapolating to the spiritual vacuum created by empire birthed in violence. moniker encapsulates many things. just recently found the Sisters of Mercy song.

Friday, November 12, 2010 at 7:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


"Extraordinary pathos", indeed -- something Jim excels at ;)

The concept of misery inhering in the project born in violence is one I have always been interested in.

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 12:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Publius said...

Don't be so hard on yourself, Jim. The truth is you're a complex dude—aren't we all—who's done what he believed to be right at the time. And you're still doing it, something for which I admire you greatly. Whether it always turned out the way you'd like is immaterial; life doesn't work that way. We just have to give it our best shot.

Why do you think I love to play golf? And drink, fuck off and do everything I can to be good to my wife, daughter and everybody I know? It's because it feels good doing those things. In the long run, we're all dead. Our legacy isn't in medals; it's in how we treated our fellow humans. The bonus is if we had a good time along the way.

Lighten up on yourself.

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 6:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim -- think about your horse, your dog, ... cowboy shooting ... and buzzing away in the Mini ... GSJ

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 8:38:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

My horse dead, the dog is old and the mini is , well, it's the mini.
Really though, i do consider myself one of the extremely lucky Vets.
I have good gun show buddies.
Nice to hear from you.
Soon to publish-report on SSG Millers MOH/AFGH.

Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 12:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Seriously, i'm glad you are still in the net.

Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 12:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Publius said...

Always here, buddy. Just because I may not generate any traffic usually doesn't mean anything other than I'm not generating traffic. I'm fundamentally erratic by nature, something I warned those guys at Milpub about when they established the blog.

And you WILL lighten up. OK?

Of course, I know you won't.

Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 5:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

If i don't give slack, then i can't take slack.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 3:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

By human beings , i assume you mean targets.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 3:53:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Sometime, please tell me about your name (and hence, about you.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Reader Carl wished to make the foll. sp. correction,

"Whether firing off rounds at an enemy on a battlefield or fiercely grappling close enough to breathe the breath of your opponent"

[n.b. -- I appreciate precision :)]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:38:00 PM GMT-5  

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