In response to a query about Desert Storm Syndrome in an online veterans group we were all recently treated to this delightful comment:
In one little post, I was reminded of one of the reasons that I decided to leave the service and choose another path. There was always someone around quick with a put-down. Now, this is probably true wherever you go, but it is particularly true in the armed forces.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m very proud of my military service, in fact, it is probably one of the things in my life of which I am most proud. I miss being part of something so much bigger than myself. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the brotherhood. But I don’t miss the machismo, the always a tough-guy theme. As much as I am truly thankful for that part of the experience because it helped me to toughen up, in the end, it wasn’t where I wanted to be day after day throughout adulthood.
There are more ways to be a man than the hard-exterior tough guy. Much of our culture tells us that this is the only way for a man to be though, and anyone who is made differently doesn’t quite measure up. And we wonder why some men are confused about what it means to be a man. The truth is, there are many ways to “correctly” be a man and tough-guy is only one of them.
At first, I laughed at the “fart of a war” comment along with some of my other comrades in arms. After I returned from the gulf war, I had a chance to talk with my grandfather about his wartime experiences as an infantryman and combat medic in the Pacific jungles of WWII. It made me realize that my difficulties aboard ship during a couple of months in Desert Storm were minuscule in comparison to those of an infantryman in the second world war, or any war for that matter.
However, as I think about it, dismissing the misery of an unexplained illness or the trauma of serving in combat really isn’t a laughing matter. Undoubtedly, some of us still suffer from mental health issues if not physical issues, but to the macho man, these are unspeakable things.
I don’t typically engage in online arguments, particularly one so obviously desirous of stirring up contention. It is like the old saying,
“You shouldn’t wrestle with a pig. You’ll just get yourself dirty and the pig will enjoy it.”
Instead of wrestling with pigs, I’ll just have my say in this space. We should support each other better.