[February 26, 2020] My maternal grandmother, Bigmama, used to shake her finger at my cousins and me and say, “get your act straight.” I’m sure many of us have had similar experiences with grandparents and had that wagging finger pointed our way just after we did something wrong. She was saying that that to be someone good in life, that we had to adopt responsibility.
Like my grandmother, the Military also teaches ‘why’ it is essential to adopt responsibility. The first thing the Military does is show us what we are leaving out if we don’t choose responsibility. We are taught that failure to adopt responsibility is to dramatically fail as a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman and to let down all our buddies.
Those of us who join the Military, often do so to become a part of something greater than ourselves. We want to credibility, the safety, the relief, and the belonging that is gained by being a part of it. Yet the Military takes this one step further. We are told that we have something to offer, something important. Each of us has the capacity to set the world straight. That is what we ‘see’ when we belong to the Military, and we like it.
This belonging to the Military is what sustains us over the long haul. Even the most rebellious member of the military armed forces can tell you so. Whenever I meet older veterans, oddly enough, those who hated their service time they spoke highly of their satisfaction in that belonging. And not just the camaraderie that we can expect, but they were also of their knowledge that they were content, often for the first time in their lives. Only after leaving the service did they realize this and regretted getting out and back into the civilian world.
Words of encouragement do come from our grandmothers and other relatives, but when those same words come from the Military, we find something different. Young men, mainly but also young women, are starved for it. They have not been consistently taught that they have to develop themselves. Dr. Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto says that men who fail to socially develop become a Peter Pan-like embodiment (a figure that represents never-ending childhood).1
The Military also teaches us to be powerful. Powerful, not in the brutal sense that we can forcefully control our wants and desires and impose them on others; that is corruption. Power is competence. And that is what the military leadership at all levels desires, a competent service member who can get the job done and done with little guidance and direction.