The Other Kind of Military Brat

A nice letter from Christopher, with the 21st Air Force in New Jersey:

I just wanted you to know that when I was serving with Operation Deep Freeze (the ongoing Air National Guard operation that supports the National Science Foundation) at McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica, ‘This is True’ was part of a weekly ritual. There are a number of people in ‘Mac Town’ that still read you through their Internet mail there. I guess that means you’re popular on all 7 continents.

I knew that I had readers at various Antarctica bases, but I haven’t heard from anyone there in a while. Thanks for the update — I love hearing about readers getting True in interesting spots.

Then It Turns Dark

I have very often mentioned military readers over the years, including more recently those aboard ships at sea, thanks to their satellite mail connections. So I was a tad surprised to get this from Stan in Texas:

Please, Sir, will you do a special issue for the men & women, my siblings, that are about to go to conventional war and those now serving in the war on terrorism? Many of them have ‘net access, even while deployed. I feel that something especially for them would be especially appreciated. I know from personal experience that every little bit of encouragement helps after you kiss the spouse good-bye and get ‘in country’. I’m sure that my wife (disabled Viet Nam era US Army veteran) and my Dad (WWII US Navy combat veteran) would agree.

I reminded Stan that I have often featured military units in the past, and “if I have any ‘reason’ to do so again (e.g., a letter from someone in the field), I’ll do so” again. Sound good? Not to Stan it didn’t. He replied:

Perhaps when the jack-booted hordes invade your personal space you will understand that you owe a debt to those that interpose their personal being between you and those who think that the expression of free thought is a bad thing. I understand that you have the typical civilian’s appreciation for those that volunteer to protect your ungrateful buttocks. Had you a fiber of civility you would have responded appropriately. Good morrow to you. I shall not trouble your tiny mind further. It is my fervent desire that you rot in an hell appropriate to your lack of humane feelings.

To be sure, I don’t consider Stan, who bragged that he was “TSgt, USAF (retired from active duty at 20 years and 13 days of service in the greatest Air Force in the world I am eligible for recall to active duty for the balance of 30 years service, until 1 March 2008. I don’t want any more campaign medals.)”, to be ANY way representative of our military. Rather, he is one of those “bad apples” that spoil the image of our armed forces not only at home, but abroad. What a sad example he sets for our all-volunteer servicemen and -women.

But I don’t want to sit here and rag on him — I’d rather active military readers respond to Stan. Please feel free to comment below.

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18 Comments on “The Other Kind of Military Brat

  1. I’m retired military — 22 years, 2 months and 22 days active duty in the US Army. I served in Vietnam, and came under enemy fire there. My dad served on the USS Alabama during WWII. My ex-spouse (who remains my best friend) is a Vietnam-era veteran. My daughter and my son-in-law, as well as my current partner (who has two Bronze Stars), served in the Gulf War a decade ago. We all of us consider Stan to be a first-class jerk, and in our collective and several opinions, does great discredit to the US Air Force. I’d use stronger language, but This is True is a family publication.

  2. Uh…only a TSgt (technical sergeant) after 20 years and 13 days? Hmmm… not very impressive. In fact, downright unimpressive. I’m surprised he got to stay in for the whole 20 years. He should have retired at least a master sergeant, if not a senior master sergeant. Most career enlisted Air Force folks strive for chief master sergeant prior to retirement, which takes a bit of doing, but to retire not even a master sergeant is mighty odd. It takes real doing. But, judging from the way the fellow writes, I can see why.

  3. I retired the USAF as a Chief (E9) a few years ago. I’d like to let you know that Stan does not represent the past or present Air Force in any way. He’s a small minded man who had a small career. The reason he retired at 20 years and 13 days is because he couldn’t get promoted more than twice in about 16 years and reached his high year of tenure and had to retire. You make it to E4 (Sgt) in about 4 years if you just manage to keep breathing and stay out of trouble, it’s guaranteed. Stan made it all the way to TSgt (E6) in the next 16 years — two promotions. Most of us get to at least MSgt (E7) long before ever becoming eligible to retire. Undoubtedly Stan will respond to this with a long litany of reasons why he didn’t advance further — rotten bosses, low promotion opportunity, wasn’t an ass-kisser, etc. What he won’t do is look in the mirror and see who held him back. Please keep writing the column and know that the vast majority of your military readership supports you.

  4. I am deployed in support of the war on terrorism. A better idea [than asking for special issues] would be for Stan to encourage people to get involved in one of the many support programs that are out there. The ones that send us CARE packages and letters and the like.

    But let’s say for the sake of argument that you had told him that you didn’t want to dedicate an issue to the military because you don’t agree with what we are doing (and believe me, there are people out there who feel that way). Is that not one of the freedoms that we are at this moment fighting to protect? Did Stan not, in his time in the Air Force, fight to protect the freedoms we have in America? The same freedoms we have been fighting to keep since our wonderful country was born? I myself am exercising the same freedom when I tell Stan in Texas that he should know better than to chastise someone for doing their job, supporting us in the fight and, possibly most importantly, giving us and our loved ones back home some reason to get our minds off of what is going on in the world. Keep up the good work!

  5. You summed it up well when you mentioned Stan was simply a bad apple. I’ve been in the Air National Guard for 12 years now, after 4 years of active duty. From what I read (before the career description of the person), I expected one of two types: 1. Young kid. 2. Old idiot.

    The military makes some people self-righteous, just like religion. Unlike regular jobs, the military doesn’t have periodic layoffs to force lower-performing people out. Unless you screw up pretty bad, you’re allowed to reenlist and you just continue on, albeit your test scores keep you at a low rank and you get bitter and self-righteous. I’ll bet Ungrateful Stan was not the sharpest stick. He stayed in 20 years not out of true patriotism or loyalty, but because he couldn’t get a job half as good on the outside. And despite being jealous and hating it for 20 years, now that he’s out he tells lots of war stories about how great he was and the good old days. Been there, seen the type.

    Which is sad, since you don’t have to be in the military to make terrific contributions to society. If indeed all he does is sit around and feel bitter, more’s the waste. -rc

  6. I don’t know if you remember awhile ago, I was the Navigator on the USS Essex — the other forward deployed aircraft carrier in Sasebo, Japan. In case you forgot, you had a tag line something to the effect of “Delivered to xx countries and the USS Kitty Hawk, the nation’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier in Yokosuka, Japan”. I wrote in to you and explained there was another aircraft carrier, even though they were mostly helicopters and we would like equal representation. (Essex is an Amphibious Assault Carrier which had about 50 air assault helos and 8 Harriers for close air support. And 2500 Marines ready to go ashore and carry out the will of the country.) Anyway, we emailed back and forth a few times and in the next issue were some very nice comments about the ship. I have always found you level headed and willing to give the guys a fair shake. I am amazed at the lengths some people will go to while moaning about how unfair you are.

    I not only remember our correspondence, it was you that I was thinking of when I mentioned TRUE had readers on Navy ships at sea. Thanks again for sending me the photo of the ship, signed by some of the guys. Glad to see you’re still there, and still reading! -rc

  7. I was active duty Air Force for several years, serving in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Provide Comfort. I have been on call and even had orders to duty since 9/11/01 (they cancelled the orders 30 days prior to leaving the country). Many of the reservists I serve with now were ordered to active duty and sent to “the desert” during the Gulf War. One of those people retired just yesterday. The theme of his farewell speech was that serving in the Air Force has been his privilege, not his god-given right. He was grateful for having been “allowed” the privilege to serve. I wholeheartedly agree.

    The flip side of that is that I am extremely disappointed that Stan was “allowed” to serve at all. Apparently, he learned nothing about respect, self-discipline, and professionalism. Please know that Stan is not representative of the US Air Force (I know you know, but still). I know the plan for my life didn’t include a career on active duty, but I am a well-trained volunteer who is ready to go at a moment’s notice. Sure, I would prefer not to have another campaign medal, not to have another 30 days to 3 years away from my civilian job and family, not to die for my country. But, if I have to, I will. And, never, never, never will you hear me complain. I have contempt for the people who have contempt for the military, but I understand I fight for their right to disagree with what I do. Currently, we are in an environment of a healthy attitude towards the military. I fear that some wish to change that environment and people like Stan don’t help our cause.

    Thanks for mentioning the military at all. We love the recognition.

    It is my honor, Brian. -rc

  8. Well, okay, this is TRUE, not HeroicStories, but I’d like to call a big bunch of our (international) military personnel heroes. Not Stan and his type, but rather those that serve on, knowing and accepting that they serve and fight for people back home to have the freedom to hate them. Fighting for people that hate you is bad enough, but fighting so that they CAN hate you, well, that’s really something!

    As Brian said “I fight for their right to disagree with what I do”.

  9. Dear Sir:

    Yes, Sgt, that is meant as an insult. I feel sorry for your wife. She and I have something in common — I also am a disabled Vietnam Era veteran, a former field medic. It appears that since you retired and no longer had 1 and 2 stripers to prove yourself with, you’ve taken to thinking less, talking more, and being downright stupid to the max. Lucky for you that you no longer have a chain of command making certain you perform in a civilized, thoughtful, and efficient manner; unlucky for those exposed to your petty pedantry and misplaced anger.

    You owe Randy an apology. You owe those on active and reserve duty in the armed forces an apology. And you probably owe your wife more than one — for turning into a prick once you fell outside the safe cradle-to-grave world of active military duty. If you really want to have those serving overseas getting greetings and things to make them think or smile or laugh, you do something about it. If kids in 4th grade classes can figure out how to make cards and send them to units deployed to hotspots, certainly you should be able to. You’re no longer the senior NCO present, regardless of what you think; learn to do the scut work you passed off to underlings for too many years.

  10. I wholeheartedly agree with the opinion of the military respondents [above]. The thing which touched me the most was someone’s hint that we could do something ourselves. I went out and searched the net and found Operation Enduring Response. While perusing their site I did notice that Missouri isn’t on their list of participants. I’ll have to see if I can get something started here. I realize that getting a letter from me won’t have nearly the impact that one from a elementary age school children will but that isn’t to say I can’t get off my butt and assemble a CARE package to ship out there. Thanks for getting me off my tailbone!

    Operation Enduring Response was (its web site is now gone) a letter writing campaign sponsored by the Red Cross to bring a little bit of home to our deployed servicemen and -women. -rc

  11. A lot of people bashed 20 year E-6s. I would like to stand up for some of them. While there are career E-6s who don’t realize they’ve reached the limits of their ability and spend time bitter and blaming everyone else, there are many others who realize who fortunate they are to have a good, secure job and they work twice as hard as some of the rank-senior, political, back-stabbing, game-playing, chair-setting E-7s and up. (Same goes for officers.) Higher rank (and ability to quickly figure out complex problems) does not mean better person, or a person you’d want to depend on in the field. I know you can’t spend your time apologizing for everything, but consider a good word that not all 20-year E-6s are small minded, bitter incompetents.

    Thanks, Wayne. -rc

  12. Thanks so much for the milbrat web page. It was a great enlightenment for me to read the comments by an entire class of people who I’ve never had the opportunity to interact with in my life. As a draft-eligible 17-year-old in 1973, I was terrified of both Vietnam and the military establishment, which I only saw as the instrument of my imminent death. Because of that, I abhorred the entire concept of the military in any form. It’s taken decades for me to come to realize the incredible dedication and sacrifice that so many young have given and still give for our country. You have provided some of them a voice that they might not have otherwise had. And that is also a small part of what they are committed to protect. It was just so much fun to read their letters to you! Yours is a voice of freedom and clarity of thoughtfulness which is sorely lacking in our country today.

  13. “I may not agree with what you say, but to the death I will defend your right to say it.” ~Voltaire

    In the Vietnam draft era, I enlisted. And though Stan pisses me off, I did serve to protect his right to say it. And it’s my right to say that he is one incredible jackass.

  14. I am not military, but my late husband was. He retired MSgt from USAF after 21 years 3 months and 28 days. He always said “but who’s counting?” He would have been one of the first to jump on Stan’s case for his attitude. He hated nothing more than someone who thought they had the right to tell everyone how to think and act after they got out of service. He has been gone for four years now, but I still get weepy. Guess it will take a long time for it to quit hurting.

    Yes, it will — and that’s OK. He sounds like a great guy. The kind of guy I want to be a career man, unlike Stan. -rc

  15. Stan, Stan, Stan… Where do I start?

    I’ll grant that you are senior to me in many ways: age, depth of military experience, …narrow-mindedness.

    This person whom you berate does his level best to be fair, and, while his decisions are not always the ones I would make, they DO cause me to think. Sometimes I change my mind, and sometimes I don’t.

    The one thing he does NOT do is trivialize the best part of the American Way: Freedom: of Speech, of Action, of Opportunity, of Choice. Nor does he trivialize the efforts and sacrifices that so many have made throughout the years. Well he understands the Jeffersonian concept that “The Tree of Liberty must from time to time be watered with the Blood of Patriots and Tyrants.”

    With that understanding comes the sense of fairness I spoke of: if he had been a small-minded person, he would not even have bothered posting your rant; he would have shied away from the criticism. Instead, he pointed out that you might have missed where he DOES support the men and women in uniform; and you replied with a childish rant.

    Right now you might be asking me by what right do I have to address you in this fashion? I admit, not as a fellow who wears or once wore a uniform. Rather, I am a son of a WWII veteran who was wounded in action in France, the son-in-law of a retired 25-year-man SSgt. in the Air Force, brother-in-law to a husband and wife who have both served in the Colorado Air Guard, and the gentleman does have occasion to find himself in Iraq.

    In short, I FULLY appreciate what has been done for my freedom, and I routinely thank those who wear the uniform for their service. I know they get enough grief from those who don’t understand (as Jane and Arlo didn’t) that it takes a person whose mind is solidly grounded in right and wrong to make sure they don’t do terribly wrong things in the time of conflict.

    I have never seen a column of Randy’s that disagrees with the above. Pity you couldn’t have had an open enough mind to review past editions to see that yourself.

    With all that, Stan, I wish you ‘Happy Trails’, and hope that age will bring wisdom.

  16. Yesterday (the celebrated Monday of Memorial Day) I had the privilege of touring the USS Midway, the retired post-WWII carrier on display in San Diego. I say privilege because that was how it felt as I relived some history and interacted with many retired servicemen.

    While there my girlfriend, her mother, her son, and I all filled out post cards to Navy personnel serving overseas. I’m proud to say none of us even hesitated when presented with the opportunity by the on-ship people. And while I was still in that area of the ship I definitely noticed those people who were presented with the same opportunity and declined.

    While my thoughts were not nearly as caustic as Stan’s I did have some negative thoughts.

    When I read Stan’s remarks I classified him as either 1) someone who has not read True much and has a medical condition causing his knee to jerk, or 2) Just an unthinking jerk.

    I have read True since it was This Just In and you have always had stories about the military in your publication.

    Thanks! And keep up the great work!

    And to our military: Please never doubt that you are thought of frequently and with great respect!

    You’re most welcome, Andy. -rc

  17. I am a Navy vet. I was on poseidon missile subs through the last years of the cold war (I left the Navy in 1982)… so, I figure I did my part to help keep us out of a nuclear conflict for about 8 years. After having said this though, I have little to add to the comments already posted above and those linked to from the original letter.

    There have been very, very many occasions when I have agreed with Randy and very, very few when I’ve disagreed. I am proud of the fact that I get to support Randy in his exercise of his 1st amendment rights, and thereby exercising my own. Without having the freedom to read what we want, the freedom to say what we want has little power.

    Back to Stan in Texas – I won’t use the words that float into my mind as this is a “family” publication and web site. Suffice to say, in the words of Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged (a character from Douglas Addams’ books) “you’re a jerk Stan. A complete kneebiter.” Thanks for being a petty, narrow-minded clod. At least you’ve given me something to laugh at today. Fortunately our Military tends to turn out better people than you most of the time.

    <Sigh> … I know that I came out of the Navy a much better person than I went in. Our Military tends to improve the majority of people who volunteer these days. Alas … a few do slip through the cracks, but most of us are much better for having served. We have a much better appreciation of what our country is all about, and a very strong appreciation of the freedoms which we have helped to protect. Thanks to all who have served, and continue to fight for our freedom and the freedom of others.

    Amen. -rc


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