Men with swords never go hungry…
…But they do Die.
In July of 2005 I won my first kickboxing match at Differ, Ariake, for Shin-Nihon kick-boxing. I dominated my opponent, unable to find the knock-out but easily out maneuvering him and punishing him with front kicks and body shots. It was a relatively easy fight.
Around this time, Marcus Luttrell was doing Recon with a small group of Naval special operators, SEALS, in the mountains running along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They had a fight, not an easy one, and everyone died save Luttrell, who was badly wounded, and captured. Eventually he was rescued and he wrote a book about it.
The book was a big hit and in 2013 the movie Lone Survivor was released and it did really well.
Since the book was written, this genre, Combat Veteran Literature or more specifically Special Operations Literature has exploded and since the release of the movie Hollywood and the media have had an orgy with Special Operations, Operators and particularly the SEAL community which seems to have embraced the publicity wholeheartedly. It’s been truly bacchanalian; Lone Survivor, American Sniper, Captain Phillips, SEAL TEAM 8 and 13 hours. It’s been fox news interviews of SEALS and contractors and former contractors. It’s been a parade of people talking about “Yeah, I shot a kid. I felt bad. But praise Jesus and fuck those Muj bastards.” And then applause and praise from everyone.
The Quiet professional? Not as of late.
I started to look at this, the hero worship of veterans, about six years ago and it began to make me nervous. It was increasing at a feverish pitch. Nothing goes on forever and the good times are followed by rain. America has idolized and labeled veterans, in ways that seem unrealistic and often self serving. If they’re pouring accolades all over you for being there to “protect our freedoms” then they don’t have to speculate as to why they were never really involved; safe at home, going to the mall, eating BBQ. They did their part, by saying you did really well. Thank you for your service.
It all seemed pretty genuine though, if self serving, until American Sniper. I read the book and it seemed clear to me that Chris Kyle, obviously a skilled killer and sniper, was a complete maniac and not a man I would want to be in the same room with. This isn’t because he kills, I have friends who have killed a lot of people and I would let them move in with me in a moment if they needed it. But Kyle just seemed like a complete psychotic. The movie, based on his book, was hugely successful. Particularly with middle America.
Kyle died, by the way, murdered by another veteran.
So, as time has passed and I’ve watched the rise of the manufactured super hero veteran in the media, and I’ve talked to my friends, some of whom have scores and scores of combat patrols and kills and memories of brains splattered all over the place, my discomfort with the media produced, and seemingly government approved, “combat veteran” image has made me worry.
How long is everyone going to follow this trend? And when they stop loving veterans, what will be next? Well, what usually follows a love affair is the flip side of the coin, that’s hate. That’s turning the back or what’s worse, seeing that former love as an enemy now.
Recently, Lone Survivor, and Marcus Luttrell have passed a phase of what was largely quite scrutiny and have come under attack. Many of the aspects of his story have come under attack, including the numbers he claims to have been ambushed by, how they were compromised and even whether or not Luttrell fired his rifle at all.
Is his story bullshit? How much is real? People have asked similar questions about Chris Kyle and his tales. Is it because these men lied? Or is because on the bell curve, the public and more importantly the media who control/inflame the public, have passed the top of the curve and now we are beginning to drop into the dark? Having our own super heroes was good fun, but how many normal civilians want to sit next to a guy on the subway who can kill everyone in his immediate proximity with a fucking pencil? I’d love to see a cop try to restrain a 250 pound operator with three combat tours because he’s refusing to be searched.
Recently, when I was in Hawaii, some people were sitting around a table outside drinking beers, twenty feet from the beach, having a great time. Somehow, in conversation, it came up that I was a former Marine. The owner of the house looked at me and said, smiling, clearly sarcastic but none the less pressured to say something and let out with “Uh, thank you for your service?”
“Well, I never went to war or anything. I was in before that.”
She shook her head, drunk, a little and laughed “Oh…whatever.” Laugh Laugh. Ha. Ha.
I never had anyone give more than an “Okay” ten years ago if military service came up. Now, the hero-worship has passed a certain point and is becoming a punchline. Soon, it’ll become an uncomfortable fact and after that will be considered a dangerous reality.
In 1876, the Samurai were banned from carrying swords. When will it become more difficult for a veteran to get a gun than the average Joe? Probably sooner than you think.