The bragging was never thrown my way. I was totally unaware of it. In retrospect, I know why. Because I knew the truth.
There was a statement (not so much a request) about a certain circle of mutual friends. "We probably shouldn't let them know how far back we go . . . it just raises questions." I had no objection. It didn't matter to me. So I obliged. In retrospect, I know why. Though I was unaware of the "past" this individual had shared with these same people, I knew the truth.
Little by little, I heard things. Once, I overheard a conversation. It startled me. But I am one of those guys who likes to ferret out my own intel. Original sources of information do it for me. I don't like hearsay. But what I was hearing troubled me.
I have three nephews in the service. All three are U.S. Army. One is a communications expert who was retrained to be an M.P and was assigned twice as a guard at a 15,000 person detention center in Afganistan. He is currently posted to Alaska. The second is an Army Ranger. He has seen battle in a number of sandy places these past few years. The third is a Green Beret, who also has seen battle more numerous times in the sandbox. He has recently been reassigned to the States and is a drill instructor.
All three have been shot at IN BATTLE, and have returned fire.
I guess I can claim I have been shot at, too. But only in the most technical sense. To elaborate, to put it into perspective, I was behind a berm, scoring and changing targets. It's not the same is it?
But these three young men who mean so much to me, along with their peers, put themselves in harm's way quite often. That someone is putting themselves out to be what they are not in this fashion, in this place this week, is more than insulting. Not just to my three nephews, but to anyone who has ever truly been in battle. Who has shed blood for this nation that I so love.
But I digress. The day "the question" first came was while I was attending the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor induction ceremonies two years ago. In the beautiful setting that is the Ohio Statehouse Atrium, I bumped into a friend. We were standing there watching this very important ceremony, taking it all in. Listening to the citations of very brave men and women who risked their lives for their country, for their brothers and sisters in uniform.
During a brief break, my friend says to me (without turning to me) and asks, "hey, do know if (name) truly served in the military?"
I paused. I had known the day would come when someone would ask.
I turned to look at him, and I was getting this skeptical look, eyebrow raised. I paused as I carefully chose my words. "I honestly don't know, but I don't think so," I answered. His reply, "the math doesn't add up, does it?" "No," I said, "it doesn't." The question had finally come. What I had heard previously, and heard far more of later were little stories by this individual I have known most of my adult life. He served in Vietman? Was hurt jumping out of a helicopter there? That would be rather difficult since we were in 10th grade study hall at the time, making fun of the teacher assigned to babysit us.
A few months ago I travelled to Arlington National Cemetery to bury a good friend. One of the most honorable men I have ever met. He was not only a paratrooper, he later was a jumpmaster. A Green Beret whose stories were real. Who had been shot at. And who, while he was proud of his service, didn't go around bragging about it. Didn't go out of his way to tell stories.
But when he did, his stories were real. My nephews serve with honor. The uniform they wear is real, not purchased out of a catalog. The stories they tell are real.
To them I say "thank you for your service." To the posers, and they are many, I just shake my head.
It is so very wrong. People who do, and have worn our nation's uniform, call such fakery "douchbaggery." To me, it is more than wrong. And so very much without honor.