On Being All You Can Be, Even in the Military:
The drive to serve in our military is a complex one. Whether that drive be grounded in an unadulterated desire to give back to this Nation, to continue a family legacy of service, or to expand one’s opportunities for education and travel, it always involves sacrifice.
Military service involves learning how to subjugate one’s personal identity to a national identity. It involves adhering to strict codes of conduct and appearance.
For so many it involves long periods of separation from loved ones, uncertainty, violence, emotional and/or physical pain and loss. It involves close acquaintance with the best and worst of human potential.
And, with mortality.
From what I’ve been told, by those who have served, it is a worthy sacrifice – even in its most terrible permutations.
And the courage to embrace it was most often found not in the emblems one would expect (the American flag or the eagle), but in the patch bearing one’s name. The photographs of one’s loved ones. The memories of the freedoms one seeks to protect, and to which one hopes to return. The trust, respect, and loyalty of those who, like you, yearn to be all they can be.
I’ve heard about the powerful, incomparable, essential bonds created between soldiers. And I’ve heard that the intimacy of life “in the trenches” can raise tensions between those of different races, genders, sexual orientations – and that these can get in the way of doing what must be done.
But I’ve also heard that “that’s bunk”. That, through the years, soldiers have learned to overcome their misconceptions, their prejudices, enough to share the claim to survival and honor with people they might never have chosen to know in civilian life. And if that isn’t “being all you can be”, than what is?
At certain points in American history the military segregated whites from blacks and men from women, because those “visible” differences were thought dangerous and insurmountable.
Since then, the military has long been segregated into those who are empowered to speak freely about the loved ones for whom they sacrifice, and those who aren’t.
If we are to believe that soldiers should have at their disposal all possible sources of courage, so that they might serve with honor and take their places once again in civilian life, and that the military actually stands behind it’s slogan that soldiers should be all they can be – then clearly such an imposed sacrifice is grossly misplaced.
With anticipation and gratitude for a united commitment to the fullness of human potential,