If you haven't read Jim Gourley's "10 Reasons Not To Vote For A Veteran", make sure to read it before reading this response.
I don’t know about you, but what the hell is going on in America these days? Seriously, it’s like the pendulum has swung back, and all those who would have been degrading the service of servicemembers and veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are now jumping over the barricades, set up by Vietnam and other veterans, to attack the service of OIF and OEF veterans, because we are ending our longest running wars. Think about it? From Congress’ COLA cuts, to Operation Pink, to recent articles about overly generous benefits, to now an article telling people not to vote for somebody because he or she is a veteran, the landscape is rapidly changing for the military and veteran community.
Replace “veteran” with “black”, “hispanic”, “gay”, whatever minority term you want to use, and tell me that both liberals and conservatives wouldn’t be all over the author and media outlet for publishing an article titled “10 Reasons Not To Vote For A Hispanic”.
There are some who responded to my last response to a retired Lieutenant Colonel that told the world that his benefits are overly generous, with “Why should we care what one person says”, “He’s deranged”, “You’re making a mountain out of a mole-hill”. But here’s the thing, guess what, when major media outlets like the Washington Post, or even more importantly media outlets that specifically tailor themselves for the military like Stars and Stripes, are printing opinion pieces that egregiously mis-portray the circumstances of the military and veteran community or attack outright the characteristics of our community, everyone needs to stand up and pay attention.
The minute the military and veterans are no longer sacrosanct is the minute that we lose our benefits and status in society.
This is not the time to turn the other cheek. This is the time to do what the military trained us to do, become one unit and defend ourselves…. Or attack…
So let’s discount Jim Gourley’s 10 reasons for why people shouldn’t vote for a veteran:
10. According to Gourley, “We are really bad at managing tax dollars”:
So first off, let’s be honest with each other. If you aren’t a Colonel or a General, how much direct control do you have over the spending of tax dollars? Sure, a Range NCO controls how many rounds are used. Sure, a Company Commander can try to control fuel costs during training. Sure, an Admiral can state that the Navy doesn’t need any more Aircraft Carriers. But who really controls the military’s budget? Who makes sure that government contracts are let to specific companies in specific districts? Maybe the Admiral to some degree through persuasion. But since the vast majority of veterans running for political office were not General Officers, Gourley is attacking veterans for the sins of politicians in Congress.
The reality is, most of those in the military, make do with what they have. Most try to stretch their dollar to do as much as they can with what they have. Is there some waste? Sure. But you show me a private sector company that doesn’t have any waste of any of their profits.
9. Gourley states, “We’re just as political as the politicians.”:
Let’s all agree that most General Officers have a little bit of a politician inside of them. Let’s also agree that to make it in this world, there has to be a little give and take and most of us call this “office politics”. Let’s also agree that people do things for a reason. Going to a great school will help you get your foot in the door. People join fraternities to make friends and enlarge their network. And of course, there are people who join the military in the hopes that it will help them make a better life for themselves, however for those who joined the military during a time of war, and then went to war, Gourley’s attack is capricious.
8. Gourley contends that, “Being a vet doesn’t make us a morally superior candidate.”:
That’s true. Look, not every veteran is a saint. However, being a nun doesn’t necessarily make one a saint either. It’s about what you have done and continue to do that makes your who you are. Let’s face it, when one person risked their life for their brothers and sisters, and the other person went to college and then went on to the corporate world, it’s not hard for the comparison scale to tilt towards the veteran.
7. Gourley assumes that, “Combat isn’t an accomplishment.”:
Usually I try to be eloquent and persuasive, but sometimes you just can’t hold your tongue. Gourley can go fuck himself. Seriously I could just leave it at that and everyone in the veteran and military community would understand, but I’ll go on so that those outside of our community might understand why he can go fuck himself. Only people who have never been in combat assume that being in combat isn’t something notable to put down on your curriculum vitae. Obviously having been an intern, or going up the foreign policy ladder, is a form of accomplishment. Doing something that less than 99% of Americans have done, well that’s too easy. And of course, anybody who has ever been shot at, blown up, or have seen their buddies die, will tell you that they worry everyday about what people say about them.
I mean the courage that it takes to fight for a bill in Congress surely outweighs the courage that it takes to fight for your life. Plus if he is correct in his belief that those in the military are just as political as politicians, doesn’t that mean that they are well prepared to suffer the slings and arrows… sorry the paper cuts and jabs in the halls of Congress?
6. Gourley states “We really don’t understand the average American.”:
So let me get this straight, a guy who is a Foreign Policy expert thinks that he is more in touch with the average American than the guy turning a wrench in the military? Think about that for a second, one hard second. Usually we want leaders with a broad understanding of circumstances and life. Usually we want leaders who will do what they think is right.
Is every single veteran an icon to be a leader in the legislative halls? Of course not. But just like black people, I as a veteran, love being stereotyped and degraded as a group.
5. Gourley contends that, “Our life experience is limited.”:
Look, it’s my serious hope that every veteran who just leaves the military has the ability to decompress and civilianize. That’s necessary to be able to fit in and work in the larger American culture. However: 1) Not all of us who joined the military were officers, 2) Even non-commissioned officers go on to do great things, 3) he keeps on harping that units never need to worry about budgets or building consensus.
I’m sure glad that I could just buy all the medical equipment that I wanted for my medical platoon. Oh yeah, and just yelling out orders is exactly how the military teaches you to be a leader. There isn’t any counseling, team building, or any other normal “civilian” leadership techniques taught by the military.
4. Gourley states that, “We’re overrepresented as it is.”:
So I’m confused, because people keep on electing veterans to office, that’s a reason not to elect veterans?
3. Gourley believes that, “We make a mess of the dialogue.”:
I don’t know where to begin. I’m sure veterans figured into immigration reform and Cantor losing his Republican primary….
Obviously without the military and veterans there would be an open and clear dialogue in the political spectrum and a lack of single issue divisiveness.
2. Gourley rightly states, “The parties are just using us as poster children.”:
Gourley’s right. But here’s the rub. Parties use everybody as poster children when it suits their needs. The only difference is, if you are a veteran, you have a special bond with our community. Therefore, hopefully, you honestly want to do right by your brothers and sisters.
1. Gourley believes that, “We actually do feel entitled.”:
Sure, some of us feel entitled. But we’re also Americans. I haven’t yet met an American who hasn’t felt entitled to something.
In fact, I believe that the revolutionary idea that we have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, is at its heart a statement of feeling entitled to something.
So the question is this, and it’s a question that I have asked before, what is the value provided to both the American people and the government/military to have an all-volunteer force? Unless you can answer this question, there’s really no way of knowing if veterans are receiving benefits for services rendered, or overly generous entitlements.
At the end of the day, Jim Gourley, a veteran himself, can raise the red flag and state that because veterans are not willing to validate their service to America at large, that we are in some way hiding behind it. In some respects, our community should be more open with our experiences and not allow those in our community to tarnish our community through outlandish slanders or through outrageous use of military experience to justify an entitled feeling. But at the end of the day, I am more concerned of the American population discrediting military service, than I am of veterans using it as a hammer to beat civilians in political contests, because let’s face it, if you have never experienced war, if you have never experienced combat, if you have only ever asked what your country can do for you, how can I as a veteran, convince you of the merits of my service and my experience?
I’m all for dialogues and discussions. But unfortunately, when your going in proposition is negatively stereotyping all veterans, can you actually expect to have a thoughtful conversation?