Right! The time has come, I need to speak out.
First and foremost, let me say that in my experience being a soldier is a shit job, done extremely well under even the most trying of conditions. The lads and lasses put their lives on the line and do their duty.
I’m not about to knock that.
I will start by saying; that is their job, for which they volunteered. Nobody made them enlist.
The thing that distinguishes the armed services from any civvy job is that it is in your job description that you will die if so ordered. Tell a copper or fireman to stand firm in the face of certain death and he has the option to quit. It is a soldiers job to die if necessary.
They are doing their job, come death or mutilation. That is not heroic, it is for that they are paid.
But they are being brave, that makes them heroes!
I would argue that the modus operandi of the army is to make you more afraid of your Sergeant than you are of the enemy. You are bullied into being a mindless drone, afraid to not obey an order.
In the first world war the Royal Military Police were positioned in the trenches to shoot any man who didn’t go over the top.
In the second world war they had conscription with jail and dishonour for anyone who wouldn’t go. I know from personal experience that even the most jaundiced of cynics would prefer the possibility of death than the certainty of a lifetime of shame with the stigma of cowardice.
It was proven at the Nuremberg Trials that following orders is not an excuse for committing war crimes. Yet we have recently gone in to illegal wars. Every soldier should have refused. They did not. Nor were they ever likely to.
My point is; bravery takes many forms. Killing Johnny Foreigner for his oil may well be the least brave option once you’ve taken the Queen’s Shilling.
Then there is a technical point; a hero is someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty. Who does something without thought for personal danger, to serve his unit, and somewhat nebulously, his country.
To call everyone in uniform a hero is to devalue the word and dishonour those who have earned the epithet. Clarkson did a piece on some chap who kept going back into battle though they tried to cas-evac him on several occasions, firing a mortar like a bazooka, bleeding from his ears, shot to shit and still fighting. That is a hero. Some desk jockey who happens to wear a uniform is not.
Then there is the actual campaign, ‘Help For Heroes’. Started by the Sun. The mouthpiece of the evil Murdock. Why did they start it? To whip up patriotism and support for our boys and to stifle questioning dissent amongst the ‘screw oil concerns, let’s keep our boy’s alive’ lobby.
The aim is to have us all saluting the flag, supporting illegal wars, and frightened to say ‘bring the boys back home’ as that would mean we were unpatriotic. Is it braver to follow this route or stand for your principles?
Of course I’m a stinking hypocrite. I am actually trying to get back into the army!
What was that Latin phrase? ‘I see and approve of the best path, I follow the worst’
I want to get back in to get my truck driving experience so I can get a civvy job. My principles are as ephemeral as that. It doesn’t mean I can’t see the truth of the situation.
Which brings me full circle to my my point. I am willing to serve, again. I know and accept the risks. If I can get back in I will most probably be getting my experience in Afghanistan. Would that make me a hero? No. It would make me a chap doing his job.
To quote the philosopher Gump; “That’s all I have to say about that.”