5. The Matter of Utility

While motives to join the US military occupy nearly infinite points along a spectrum, we can still reasonably conclude that - at least for the past 50 years - the ranks are populated by those who personally elected to be there. Yet little easy-to-find research elucidates the decision point itself: join versus not join. We might reasonably assume that decisions to not join include an objection to the idea of killing, fear of physical or emotional inadequacy, and a worsening trend nationwide where youth are unable to meet height, weight or criminal background standards. There is also a cross section of young Americans who have no interest whatsoever in service. It seems pointless, pays terribly, and conflicts with whatever plans they have for their own lives. Not joining doesn’t produce feelings of guilt in these instances; it never blips on the radar of the young man who already has a good plan in front of him, who is expected to go to college and thereafter embed in the family busines

4. Emotional Fodder

Roundabouts February of 2023, two visual productions rose simultaneously to fame LinkedIn and elsewhere, one a still image and the other a very well produced video. The former, a photo of a soldier wearing old woodland camouflage trousers and no shirt, shows him clutching his head in presumed anguish while his wife, regally poised in a wingback chair, faces the opposite direction and diddles around on a laptop. The two most obvious elements of this photos are that a) the veteran is shirtless and - despite growing a super lush hipster beard - has maintained very low BMI and b) his wife is wearing heels that effectively accentuate her leg lines and that she also has great taste in dresses but questionable taste in wallpaper. Perhaps we’re also supposed to pick up that there’s some marital strain or something. Sure enough, relational/marital strain is the precipitating factor for more than half the veterans who blow off their heads, but we’d be hard pressed to specifically blame militar

3. Let's Talk About Sex a Bit More...

...Because it sells, and because it is the axis around which young, hot servicemember love rotates. You’re in your physical prime, probably not immensely ugly (dress uniforms are a big draw even if you are), and you have indicated a willingness to go dulce et decorum est for your country. This carnal magnetism leaves two people (or perhaps more; who the hell knows) literally pawing at each other as frequently as possible. A stunning percentage appear to mistake this predator/prey interaction for true love and rush to marriage - seemingly right before he marches off to war. He white knights her for a bit, there’s the hormones, the dressing like you live in a military town (this is a real thing), some public groping, trips to the PX to buy some Army wife t-shirts, parading of the other in front of peers as a trophy, matching tattoos, more youthful bedroom stuff and then he’s gone to a combat theater. The end, please be sure to buy the second and third books in the series. But let’s fac

2. Things to Think About

(but will probably piss you off) - The happiest, healthiest veteran is the one you can’t find - Unless you’re carried off the battlefield in a bodybag, you will at some point return to being a civilian. - Being a good civilian is considerably harder than being a good servicemember or veteran. - The vast majority of those who serve will do so honorably; some will get out and go back to being the losers they already were. - Military service doesn’t break people; life breaks people. Some broken people find their way into the military and, for a smaller number, the military experience breaks them a whole lot more. - Military service has the capability of artificially sustaining some people who would have struggled with life whether they served in the military or not. If you’ve made it this far, you’re through the worst of it. Each of these will be discussed in greater detail in later sections.

1. Read This First

A quick search of under the phrase “veteran romance” offers opportunity for a lascivious romp through the American imagination, or at least the armies of lovelorn, housecat-collecting saps who read that sort of bullshit. Some plot synopses are confusing and involve love triangles with service dogs, and others have weird overlaps with Amish romance, alien stuff, westerns or a spectrum of kink, but these are the exceptions. There is a clear trend identifiable in the 7,000+ hits: Beautiful but broken male vet with stunningly low body mass index and amazing abs happens upon virginal girl who just completed real estate licensure, purchased a farm and/or moved to a small town, or graduated from a school of social work. Without fail, the veteran is in need of extensive erotic therapy to overcome the ghosts of his combat-ridden past. Also without fail, the virginal “therapist” is abducted (or insert some other form of comparable distress) and, despite his desire to heal and get b
If you get it, you get it. If you don't, google the phrase "Rock or something, MRE." Theoretically, the use of this image will become self-evident.

0. What The Hell is the Purpose of This Blog?

The aim of this essay series is to promote hard questions; not offer hard conclusions. Some data may be very well-developed (and will be identified as such), but other ideas are unquestionably in the realm of opinion (yet make a great deal of sense). Understand, however, that the population about which I write is also one into which I myself squarely fit. Replace “they/them” with “I/me” and you have, in the following essays, a glimpse into my own service and transition experiences, my own mistakes and soul-searching and, I should hope, some more balanced conclusions on the other side. No part of this is intended to question character, dismiss sincere patriotism or level insult. Instead, consider that true, pragmatic self-examination cannot really take place if it accompanies a fanatical unwillingness to admit weakness, targets a culture that fails to reward growth or, a recurrent theme throughout this work, inability to acknowledge one’s own humanness. In any case, I anticipate that th