Sailing off the coast of Yemen this week, the USS Mason was conducting business as usual. When out of nowhere, three missiles came screeching through the air destined to do their worst upon a ship full of seamen. I know there are other ranks on the ship, but I do my best to refer to Navy boys as seamen as often as possible. However, the rebels were sorely disappointed to find out that Allah did not will any Americans dead that day and the projectiles missed. One can only imagine the decks of that ship scurrying with seamen attempting to defend their home and ready themselves for action. And while America breathes a sigh of relief as they can only imagine the lower decks of that ship filled with shaken and frightened seamen, I imagine the lower decks of that ship after the attack a little more like this below.
Because them S.O.Bs likely just picked up the coveted Combat Action Ribbon and Marines who never saw combat are crying themselves to sleep at night. So let’s talk about those who never deployed.
It’s Not Your Fault
Just a few days ago, I sat having lunch with a Vietnam era Army Paratrooper who wreaked of the fact that this was the exact guy you want beside you in combat. His credentials were off the charts and he still practices and teaches excellent marksmanship to this day to the point that his daughter actually competed in shooting at the Olympics. But here is the thing, he joined at the tail end of the Vietnam War and the hard charging brother never deployed. How dare he you say! Well, perhaps you can quantum leap back in time and encourage his parents to get it on a little sooner because that is pretty much all that separates the man from those who did. That’s right, time travel some bourbon and a Marvin Gaye record back in time to his parents and the dude is a bona fide Combat Vet.
Now, if you are not feeling silly for shaming modern Vets for their lack of CAR by now stick with me and you will get there. I have deployed, I was a Grunt, and I do have a CAR. But here’s the thing, I was a Reservist! Somewhere I just made more active duty Marines without a CAR cry. Sorry buddies, it’s not your fault.
My brother joined the Marines as an active duty Grunt in 1996 and when I subsequently joined the reserves in 1997 he gave me the duly expected hell for being a reservist. However, when his contract ended circa 2000, mine continued as reservist are obligated to sign a 6-year contract. Fast forward to 4 years later and 9-11 takes place and literally months before my contract expired, bing-bang-bam I am a Combat Veteran with a CAR. My brother? Not so much and I have to tell you that Thanksgiving has been a lot more fun since. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, your combat status has as much to do with your momma and daddies sex schedule as it does your merit, resolve, and courage. So if you relish your status as a Combat Vet, then go hug your dad and thank him for forgetting the protection after the Willie Nelson concert.
It’s the Man Stupid
I have come to the inevitable conclusion that the CAR doesn’t make the man, but the man makes the CAR. Again, I have a CAR and I guess I’m proud of it. But it always strikes me as odd that Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer has the exact same amount as me and now we both will have the same amount as the seamen cook making the fried chicken during the attack on the USS Mason. The story behind every CAR is wildly different and I am not ashamed to admit that mine is as mundane as it comes. A little pew pew pew here and a little pew pew pew there and that’s it. I promise you it’s not Full Metal Jacket worthy and more, Three Kings “Are we shooting” appropriate. I have enough self-worth as a man to not claim to be anything other than what I am.
However, I will diverge and say that the Marine Corps is right to value combat experience and those who have it are right to proudly wear it. Combat experience matters, but shaming others for their lack of it is quite silly unless it’s just good natured field talking roasting. Then, do your worst. But the story behind your CAR matters more to me than the pretty little colors on the ribbon.
I will always have respect for those that joined the infantry at the height of a war. I joined the Marines at the height of the peaceful 90’s and truthfully, I just thought the Dress Blues were awesome and I really wanted to kill a fire dragon. But those who joined at the height of GWOT or Vietnam have my ultimate respect because you were certain what it meant and you said, “Here am I, send me.” Meanwhile, I joined the reserves in peacetime and pretty much just said, “Meh, I’m here if you need me.” Barring those who skate the system, you simply cannot be blamed if you never deployed and you ought to feel no shame about it. If anything, I feel for the guys who did deploy during the height of combat and still didn’t see any. One reader of this blog told me one platoon in his company was attached to a different area of Iraq for a month and while the rest of the company saw combat, that platoon didn’t hence, no CAR. Can you honestly tell me there is a difference in those Marines?
I actually haven’t written in a while, a week, because sometimes I need to take a break from the online military community. It’s great, I love it, but it can be oddly burdensome at times. Part of moving forward is just that and I’ll tell you, if this blog holds you back then drop me like a live grenade and run. Have fun and muse about the past, but above all, live in the future. If you deployed, that’s awesome and lucky you. If you didn’t, cool story bro, let’s grab a beer. If you saw combat and survived, let’s talk. If you deployed and never saw combat, let’s talk. It’s not your fault brothers.
I’d rather you go to your father and ask why he didn’t have sex with your mom 2 years earlier than feel less about your service. The CAR or CIB debate has just gotten silly at this point. I am literally the most unprecedentedly mediocre Marine you will ever meet and I am a Combat Vet by the fortune of luck. Had I gone active duty or Bin Laden took 1 more year to plan, I’m crying along with you and we can hug it out together. Don’t feel bad and never trust the CAR trash talking Marine or Sailor who is not willing to tell you the story behind theirs. Always forward my friends, always forward. And to the crew of the USS Mason, congrats, I guess and I hope it helps you score with Bea Arthur.
If You Have Experienced Combat, Like the Unprecedented Mediocrity Facebook Page Below Because You are the Only Ones Worthy to Gaze Upon My Poor Grammar and Writing.