“I can’t see him! Does anyone have eyes on him?” The young sergeant desperately wipes dirt filled sweat from his quickly scanning eyes that strain behind scratched eye pro to see where the single sniper shot originated from. Panic fills his mind at the sight of his soldier laying in the rock walled path as he screams out in pain while clutching his shoulder from where the snipers round left its mark. Dark blood begins to clump beneath the fallen man’s body as it mixes with the Afghan farm dirt where corn is grown. Screaming from the civilians in the nearby village is heard as the mounted guns from the trucks on the road behind them begin engaging the suspected area where they thought the sniper was hiding. It’s the wild wild west where there is no law or security, only controlled chaos.
Three years later that young sergeant peers out through his apartment window into the dark street light lit city below where people walk frantically to reach their destinations without any care or concern to those around them. Life runs at a fast pace and refuses to stop to recognize any individual or their wants. It’s keep up or starve. In his bed sleeps his young wife and their two year old that decided to invade their bed for the night. It’s been three years since his tour. Three years since he was faced with making decisions that had deep impacts on not only American lives, but Afghanistan civilian lives as well. The young sergeant is now a store manager at an automotive shop where he began working only a year prior, but managed to move himself up due to his work ethic, and ability to take charge and make the decisions needed to be made in order to make the business even more successful. His prolonged exposure to stress in combat rendered him untouchable and not affected by the stressors of work. His mind is honed and sharp, and his ability to perform under pressure is phenomenal.
What many fail to realize is that as veterans, we possess skills that were taught and honed in combat. Skills that cannot be learned through the study of books and the watching of instructional videos. Our minds are programmed to recognize the importance of getting the job done no matter what, and sleep comes to those that complete their missions successfully. We work long hours in incredibly adverse weather. Our drive is comprised of a sense of pride in self, pride in our work, and pride in our represented company. We hold ourselves to sometimes impossible standards, and then are self critical of ourselves when those standards aren’t met, yet turn around and continue to hold those high standards because failure isn’t something we like the taste of.
We’re a different breed when it comes to competitiveness. We don’t like to lose. We can’t stand it. The taste is bitter in our mouths and wreaks of second best. That’s not the culture we grew up in. We were trained to always strive to be first; be first in the squad run, bench the most during squad PT in the gym, shoot the best come qualification day, and ensure the company won during battalion challenges. Our mindset is derived from generations past of war fighters that trained and pushed themselves ten times harder in peace then in combat due to the understanding that to lose a soldier as a result of a negligent decision or action is not something to ever be taken lightly. It serves as a constant anchor that weighs down on the mind knowing that you were the influencer that led to another man’s death.
Our mindsets don’t have to change once we take the uniform off. Where is it written that we can no longer be alphas and go getters? We do not have to conform to a low standard, but instead we should show how we are accustomed to living up to a higher standard; be it moral, ethical, or physical. Our abilities to adapt and overcome surpass that of any second rate citizen that is too lazy to work for what they want, but the key word here is work. We are not owed anything, and should not be of the mindset to expect anything freely given to us. Each one of us raised our hands in a voluntary act and swearing an oath to our country. To expect repayment for this negates the idea of sacrifice.
Above all, America needs us. She needs us to breath fresh life back into her by being the model citizens to stand up for what’s right, help those that cannot help themselves, and rejoining the workforce in order to take our place as free Americans by supporting our fellow countrymen.