Part – I: The Military
When you look upon an American warrior, be it a Marine on active duty or a veteran who long ago put away his boots, you are intended to not feel fear. The uniforms of active duty troops are clean, crisp, and tight. They aren’t the rags of a bloodthirsty brutes, nor of barbarian brawlers. Instead, the uniforms showcase a proud and poised warrior, displaying of quiet, vigilant dignity. Their meticulously shined and perfectly aligned medals and ribbons demonstrate their delicate attention to detail, an allusion to the care and precision they apply in their chosen profession and only amplifying the impact which these decorations represent. When one looks upon such a person, they aren’t meant to feel fear. Instead, when one is afforded the chance to see someone like a Marine in Dress Blues, they are meant to see the warrior for what he is, a proud civil servant and something to be respected, admired, and appreciated for those trinkets he so precisely, and nobly wears.
And then you see some dummy making the whole service look like flipping morons. The sad fact is, most people can’t tell the difference between this joker and the outstanding example of a human being pictured previously. They don’t really notice that the medals are all in the wrong places. They don’t really understand the importance of one badge or another. They don’t really get that… there is no way that guy is old enough to be a Sergeant Major. What they then do in that uniform, pick up women, get drunk and start a fight at some scuzzy bar, commit crimes, or just hang out at the mall to get attention, people see. They see these guys act unprofessionally, some of them downright atrociously and civilians think to themselves, “People like this are who is supposed to be protecting me and my family?”
That’s significant. One military idiom I learned to respect in the military goes like this, “Perception is reality.” What that statement means is that the truth doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, you aren’t going to get a fair trial, and what people put together in the first few moments will determine your guilt or innocence in most things. It’s an ugly truth, but one most of us can look back upon times when we were wronged, and know it is the truth. Where this applies to Stolen Valor cases is that what some idiot does in a uniform affects the way that people view, not him, he will be forgotten in days, but on the military as a whole. Absence that aura of the proud professional warrior and the civilized warfighter that the properly worn uniform produces, you just have an arrogant, ignorant person who, to you, is the one going out and killing in your name. No one wants a fool to be a warrior. No one wants a moron with a gun going out and representing them overseas. No one wants to empower undeserving people. That is what they feel has happened when they see this person that don’t realize, isn’t a soldier, but just a liar in disguise.
The ramifications of this are severe, though. In a ripple effect, this belief in the unfit warrior has a way of making its way into policy. They take the form of a civilian population disenfranchised with the military. They lose faith in military effectiveness, demanding cutbacks in their funding and operational scope. They stop supporting troops actions and efforts overseas, sometimes pushing to dangerous drawbacks because faith in the military was lost. Sometimes they can result in the limitation of the liberties of warriors, making their lives just a little bit more unpleasant because of the perception they can’t be trusted. Finally, they deal the greatest blow to our legacy, they turn their kids away from joining the military and push them in other, some far worse, directions, simply because they are afraid of what their kids will become – killers absent a sense of dignity and honor.
This is the significance that the uniform has to you the civilian. We didn’t design those monkey suits just to look at each other. We did that for you. We did that so that you would look at us and would not feel afraid, but safe. It is designed so that you are proud of them. What it means to the individual warrior is something altogether different.
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