"My experience in the military has taught me a lot. Duty, honor, remembering those who came before us, and taking care of the wounded. It taught me the value of what it's like to be a citizen. However, it also taught me the tragic truth of how the military is viewed among the general population."
My name is John Forrett and I was an Infantry Officer in the Army from 1987-1999. The story behind my service is quite an interesting one. My dad had served, but that was not the reason I joined. A dare is what brought me to serve. A friend had said he would serve with me, but he skipped out and went to work for a Congressman. I did not really select the Army specifically; the Infantry had a signup bonus that stood out to me more than the other branches of service. Prior to serving, I was a deputy sheriff for the local law enforcement.
Military life was not a big change for me personally(for the rest of my unit, it was). My dad who, as previously stated, served in the military, ran my home like a fort. I was the only one of all my peers who knew how the system worked. I knew how to make a bed properly and because I was a Private 1st class, I was unfortunate enough to be the 1st leader in basic.
Most of my service was spent domestically. I was a training officer. We would travel around the country and do basic training. We would do the infantry training after their 8 weeks of basic training.
One of the most impactful stories I have from the military is summarized by the quote “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue.” I had been transferred to the 104th near Stockton. All the DS in my company were from Vietnam. They wanted to earn points for retirement. There was a 47 year old stud, my Senior Drill Sergeant, who maxed the Army Physical Fitness Test. A Sergeant tells me that this man was gay, and he knew because, “I followed him into a gay bar”. However, don’t ask, don’t tell prohibited doing such, so he didn’t say why he followed him. Being homosexual myself, I felt something for this man. He was only a few months from retiring. Later, when he reported to me, I asked him if he was really gay, and if he said he wasn’t, I’d believe him; being homosexual warranted being throwing out. This man said, “F*ck it sir, I’m gay.” Now, it was my duty to report this to the Colonel, due to the rules against homosexuality in the military. However, I gave the “Old Man” two options: either listen to the drama and take action or leave it up to me. Being 3 months from retirement himself, he chose the latter. So, I took action. I offered the Whistle Blower(the sergeant who ratted on him) a space under my command. He obliged. He decided that once he got this position, he would use 1 month of time off and go home. Given this opportunity, I called up the National Guard in Arizona, and transferred him there. Being a transfer, he missed days 1,2,3, and so on because he thought he was still on vacation! I then offered the Senior Drill the position that had been opened for a full-time position at the unit, he finished his 3 months needed and retired.
My experience in the military has taught me a lot. Duty, honor, remembering those who came before us, and taking care of the wounded. It taught me the value of what it's like to be a citizen. However, it also taught me the tragic truth of how the military is viewed among the general population. Back in WWII, around 95% of the U.S population was involved in the war effort in some way, from smaller things like donating money or buying war bonds to actually serving. The remaining 5% were either disabled, elderly, or children. Nowadays, if you look at today’s war effort, it’s the opposite. Combining all of the active soldiers (1.3 million) and all the domestic arms suppliers and government officials, this adds up to much less that 5% of the population. Over 95% of our nation is absolutely clueless about what is really going on abroad, yet they are the ones that form opinions on us and make decisions for us.
I am proud to have served my country. I love this country, but I dislike its current state and government. I also dislike how little respect there is for veterans. They should treat our veterans and our places of burial the same way they are treated in Europe. There are cemeteries in Europe built for us that are better kept than they are over here. The U.S doesn’t pay a cent. Europeans have kids come out on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans with shears and paintbrushes to cut the grass and dust the gravestones. They fly then flag of our nation high and proud. Over here, sayings like “Thank you for your service” are just cheap ways to show your appreciation for a veteran without much thought for their time. If someone really cares, they should call their Congressman and tell them not to cut Veteran Benefits!