It was meant as an insult, but it was taken as a compliment.
In the past several days, out in the military social media sphere, an online forum has taken on the question of its relevancy and decline. Tony Carr provided some input, and that was translated into a thread on the forum by one of its participants. It did not take long for your humble blogger to be accused of bringing up the issue on that forum, despite my not participating in that forum. If a minority viewpoint pops up talking about fidelity to our oath, the person is assumed to be me under a new account, and they become a target. As do I by non-existent association.
So the discussion turned to PYB with the usual vitriol against me for having a differing opinion and challenging other officers to take public service seriously. The vitriol is standard for an officer who crosses the thick blue line.
Yesterday, one of the board's participants called me a "Constitutional Jesus" and another member, an officer I have flown numerous combat missions with, highlighted this phrase as being a particularly "awesome" description of me. I do appreciate the compliment, though I don't think my level of sacrifice merits it by a country mile. Jesus was nothing, if not a symbol of sacrifice for others. Faithful public servants are nothing, if not willing to risk and sacrifice for their nation's defense.
Why, however, was that compliment meant as an insult? Why is the spirit of public service, of risking to protect the rights of your countrymen after swearing before God to do so, and getting paid to do so, such a laughable matter worthy of insult? Why is putting yourself in a position to be spat upon, to be ridiculed, in order to hopefully mentor and reach just one of the olive drab masses, something humorous?
Spoo and I had a long discussion the other night about this idea of public service. I mentioned how after our combat adventures together, I had volunteered for the worst assignment imaginable to spend my last five years in a less than stellar location, performing a less than stellar mission, because it was important to the nation and because my volunteering might save a newly minted pilot from getting tagged with the assignment while carrying a ten year commitment ball and chain. We discussed the unlawful order I refused, which he was aware of, and how I tendered the resignation of my commission (which fortunately was not accepted) and how I was willing to lose every financial benefit I had worked for over more than fifteen years. And perhaps take with me a felony for life, for refusing to violate the law. We talked about the need to be willing to risk your life, your career, and your convenience to defend this nation and make good on our oaths.
We flew missions together in combat. We got shot at together in the box. He has put it on the line overseas. But I am puzzled by his disdain for risk, courage, and sacrifice here at home and I'm sad that in my experience he is representative of our service's officer corps in the matter. It's a dichotomy that has been written about in military journals, and it is one that I believe is frighteningly relevant to our national security.
Why is the spirit of public service, service before self, sacrifice for the nation, now a laughing matter that invites insult?
I think Spoo has touched on the key point in this disagreement in the blogosphere. Perhaps we can learn what it means to be professional fighting men and women from a few of our Army brethren. It's important that we figure it out. Preferably before the twenty year mark, if at all possible.