We have all seen the signs on social media, “Military Veteran Lives Here: Please be courteous with Fireworks”. To hell with that. No way amigo, I want to see the loudest, brightest and most violent display of fireworks known to mankind this Independence day. You know why? Because explosions are cool and I like cool things. I joined the military because I liked cool things like guns and tanks and explosives. I volunteered for the infantry because I wanted to be up close and personal with all those cool things and wreck stuff with them. I suspect most combat vets joined at least in part for the same reasons. So why would we fear that stuff? Because popular culture says we should? Bad answer, but that what they are trying to sell us.
Hollywood, the press, and this snowflake generation would have Americans believe that combat veterans are fragile victims that could snap at any moment because they couldn’t handle war. I have a news flash for you, we can, and we do. Guess what else? War not always bad, sometimes there are people in the world that want to do bad things to other innocent people, and it’s up to people like us to go stomp their faces into a mud hole. They want us to feel broken because broken sells, and broken makes them superior. They aren’t. I can tell you that of the Hundreds of Marines that I stay in touch with that are veterans of the invasion of Iraq, the first battle of Fallujah, Operation Steel Curtain, as well as multiple tours to Sangin and Helmand province in general – not a single damned one is afraid of fireworks, none of them break down into whimpering blobs of self-pity at the sound of an explosion. Most of them can’t wait to celebrate the day our nation fought and clawed its way out of the womb of the British Empire.
Frankly I see a lot more Post Traumatic Growth in the circle of veterans that I associate with than anything else. I see guys who have been through the worst that human being can do to each other and come out the other side more mature, better grounded to reality, more compassionate for their fellow man, and better fathers. We hold jobs at a higher rate than the general population, spend less time incarcerated, and do more public service on top of all that. Most of us have lost friends, and that part sucks. No doubt about it. But I believe that most of us also recognize that were our roles switched, and we were watching our buddies from Valhalla, we would be urging them to spend their life well. We would want them to love more deeply, live more vibrantly, and celebrate more loudly.
We are warriors gents, don’t ever forget that. We may get PTSD from time to time – but I can guarantee you that we give out a hell of a lot more PTSD to the bastards that are lucky enough to survive contact with us. I was blessed to be surrounded by some of the greatest warrior-mentors of our generation, Douglas Zembiec, Ray Mendoza, Greg Johnson, Chris Ayers, John Ploskonka and more. I served under Gen James “Chaos” Mattis, and was lucky enough to run into him in country several times. One of the lessons I took to heart from these men was that we can be unapologetic, joyful warriors who relish battle, as long as we also respect it for what it is. We can honor our dead and celebrate our lives at the same time. So with the upcoming Independence Day, revel in the fireworks, the beer, the hot weather, and all the blessings we have in this great nation. And never forget: we keep other people awake at night, not the other way around.