Oct 28, 2010

Brotherhood

I picked up a copy of Toby Keith's "American Ride" CD earlier this year. It's been in and out of my CD player in the truck. It's not a bad disc, but seems somewhat uneven.

Listening to it during my drive to Albany this week I had time to really ponder the last song, "Ballad of Balad". If you haven't heard it, have a go:



The lyrics are, without a doubt, good for a chuckle, but they should also give you pause. Contrast that with this live recording, from a USO Tour in Kandahar, AFG:



You or I can listen to it and chuckle at the references. "Two bottles of water and a cold MRE." It's easy to chuckle at the song. The soldiers listening go nuts - because they have had the experience, and it's shared suffering.

It got me to thinking - there are very few jobs in the world that result in the close-knit groups you'll find in the military. Each and every one involves some kind of risk, and it's always shared. Firefighters, police, soldiers...

There is a level of intimacy achieved in those jobs rarely found anywhere else. Some firefighters and police officers spend more "awake" time with their coworkers than with their own families. A deployed solider, of course, lives with his unit. There have been attempts to express this camaraderie in drama and cinema through the years - through the centuries! - but very few efforts have succeeded.

Perhaps the best-known and most often referenced is a bit of Shakespeare:
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!"

Most folks don't have the rest of that speech memorized. (Myself included, I had to look it up to get the exact wording.)

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
-- From "Henry V"

Five hundred years ago, The Bard was describing the brotherhood of arms and the envy that outsiders feel for the love and respect within the brotherhood.

I've been a firefighter for nearly nine years. I've been in a few twitchy situations, and have made friends that I would trust my life to... but I still have moments of regret for not joining the military.

When I left college in '99, I was on the edge of joining the Army. I had talked with the recruiter several times, taken a practice ASVAB (98th percentile), and had an appointment to finalize and sign the contract. I did a lot of thinking and walking in the nights before that appointment, and ended up calling the recruiter the morning of my appointment to cancel.

It's easy to play what-if in life. If I had signed up, I'd likely have had a pretty good choice of MOS thanks to my ASVAB score. I was interested in aviation, though - helicopters generally and AH-64 Apaches in particular. Two years after signing up, it would have been a fair bet that I'd have been shipping out to the sandbox. Who knows from there?

I still have moments when enlisting seems like a good idea - then reality comes crashing back in, and I have to acknowledge that I am not in a place in life where I can do that... Nor do I relish the idea of shipping out to get my ass shot at.

The men and women who have made that decision and are out there on the front lines have my utmost respect and admiration. There is no way in the world to thank them enough for what they do - but please try. If you have the means to do so, please think about donating to the Wounded Warrior Project. They're one of the unquestionably good service member support agencies out there.

I don't care if you support the war(s) in the Middle East. I think we need to stop playing global cop, personally. But the troops are not the ones making the policy decisions that put us in the desert to begin with, nor the troop increases and "surge" that's kept us there. Support them.

Support the men and women - the teenagers - who are getting by and trying to support a family on minimal pay and food stamps. They are the future of our country. Cherish them. Celebrate their brotherhood. Admire it. And remember it, not just on St. Crispin's day, but every day.

1 comment:

AM said...

Zercool,

Very well might be something in the water, Linoge and Sevesteen did the same thing with the "driving awareness/concealed carry" theme.

heh, word captcha "sweadmom" (kinda funny, my mom is scandahoovian...)