Take off those uniforms and all you get are a bunch of silly college kids. Put them back on and you get the future leaders who will send men and women of all races into combat. As a former enlisted Marine, I would personally preference the ladies in that picture go ahead and make up their minds about which one they want to be. I’m cool with either, it’s a free society but a choice must be made. And in an age where “lives matter” has become a descriptive norm, let me just suggest to these ladies that if “enlisted lives matter” perhaps you embrace your role as an officer before all. The best officer I ever personally knew was an African American Naval Academy male and the best enlisted man I knew was our Caucasian Platoon Sergeant given the unfortunate task of leading our platoon of misfits in Iraq. But leadership matters and I will forever be indebted to them both for that. They sent us into harm’s way, but they were first and foremost Officers and Staff NCO’s of the highest order above all. Other platoons and units were not so lucky, but I’ll never doubt for a second my life mattered to those men.
Wisdom Comes with Age
I can remember in my unit that a Marine who joined a decent amount of time after me reached the rank of Sergeant while I was still a Corporal. Part of me kicked the dust, but even then I knew this Grandpa of a man, aged 29 or so, had a season of life or two over me that translated well into leadership over my 21-year-old self. Certainly that is not always the case, but 37-year-old me often reminisces and wants to kick 21-year-old me in the sack.
So to the ladies who are likely in your early 20’s, despite your Academy Education and your future status as Military Officers I can give you a graceful pass on why this was just a stupid idea. Honestly, as a young enlisted Marine I’m quite confident I did stupid stuff in Uniform because it seemed funny at the time.
However, I’ll tell you as an older grizzled vet that you will never be prouder of your uniform than the season of life when it no longer fits and you realize the value more than ever. And all you will have to hang on to is that you wore and represented it well. You are all highly educated women and I don’t think you missed the racial context of the picture and symbol. Beyond your elite education which you do have, if you just caught this year’s Super Bowl halftime performance you get the reference. Don’t be coy or stupid about it. If you claim otherwise, then let me ask you this quick question from Mel Brooks classic film, Blazing Saddles.
Stop Taking Pictures of the Stupid Stuff You Do
Oh how I wonder if society could accept such great satire today. But what the heck kids, are you seriously telling me by now that you don’t realize every picture or video you take will make its way to the internet. We are all stupid when young but who posts every picture on the internet? Personally, I simply could not have survived my stupid season of life if cell-phone cameras existed and there are in fact a few good old fashioned photos that will never, ever, ever, and I mean never, be digitized. But as for you office types, in the past year West Point Cadets has been videotaped having a silly absurd bloody pillow fight, Citadel Cadets were photographed in KKK looking garb, and now this. Don’t tell me that white kids attending college in South Carolina missed the reference. You are highly educated men and don’t be coy or stupid about it.
One of my favorite military sites is the Terminal Lance strip and he often finds himself reminding people that if you don’t want 400,000 people to see a picture then don’t send it to him. It fascinates me that people will take a knowingly controversial picture, upload it to Facebook, and then act shocked when it goes viral. You know better kids and as Officers or Enlisted, just quit it. If a graduating class of any Academy wants to take an old fashioned polaroid of them having intercourse with chickens while waving the Nazi flag that is your business but just put it in a shoebox under your bed until you die so the rest of the military and veteran community doesn’t have to keep getting dragged into these debates. Ok, can we just agree on this and move on?
Black Women Academy Grads Should Be Proud
Lastly, I’ll also not pretend that the US Military has a clean historical record on race. The American military has in conflicts past treated minorities poorly. If you want me to provide examples because you just simply can’t believe it just ask. I’ll probably start with the combat experienced African-American male who was forced to be a cook, but given an opportunity to fight in Germany as long as he accepted a reduction in rank to Private so he didn’t have to lead white men. He went on to receive the Medal of Honor by the way. Want more?
But I’ll always be proud of America despite sad moments in our history because we have always evolved and self-corrected as did our national conscience. No foreign power had to come get our act together for us and while we might be slow to do so, we will get it together. The modern military could teach the rest of America much about race relations as once a racist redneck from the deep south and an urban kid from the inner city endure of suck together, they have a way of suddenly be willing to die for one another. You will never find more racial harmony and brutal honesty than between a black and a white man who have fought together in combat. The modern military has worked hard to get here and if you are not going to advance that process perhaps you just do nothing at all.
Ladies, what if rather than a fist in the air you had a hand extended outwards saying come join me? Because as Academy Grads and Officers you are in an elite class and while the Vet unemployment rate might be higher than the norm I’m guessing the Academy Alumni unemployment rate is pretty low. An officer should always lead the way and giving of your men or women any reason to merely fight and die for one another simply leads me to question whether you believe their lives matter. Pick a side ladies and I don’t mean race. Are you an activist college student or a leader of men and women in uniform? The mattering of lives depends on it and I pray that you choose wisely. The older version of yourself may not treat the younger version so kindly othewise.
If You Have Military Pictures That You Would Never Ever Upload, then Like the Unprecedented Mediocrity Page Below. But don’t send me the pictures.