The armed forces: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Ben Roberts-Smith is one
of the bravest men... ever
I was in Las Vegas last month and did something I’ve never done before – I fired a weapon.

My mate Mick and I went to ‘The Gun Store’ and I selected a James Bond Berreta and unloaded a couple of rounds into a target.

It was one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t help but flinch as I pulled the trigger. In fact, I can’t even describe how I felt about firing a gun – it was completely unnatural.

It did leave two lasting impressions though. Firstly, I now have a better appreciation for how easy it could be to accidentally pull the trigger on your gun and kill someone.

Secondly, it gave me a whole new level of respect for our armed forces.

I’ve always been relatively in awe of people who put their lives on the line to defend their country, but after having been around gun fire, and seen how easily someone can kill someone else, well – it’s opened my eyes even more.

The problem is: it’s easy to respect people in the armed forces on one hand, but despise them on the other.

Take what we’ve seen in recent days as the ultimate example.

First off, we have Ben Roberts-Smith. This man is, no matter which way you approach the subject, a hero.

I did a bit of investigation into his story and, after reading about him, I’d have no hesitation in saying he’s one of the bravest men alive. He put himself in harm’s way more than once, and braved close combat with enemy forces in order to protect his friends.

If I were in the same situation I highly doubt I’d have the courage to do what Ben did.

Yet this didn’t stop a couple of television presenters slagging him off on national TV belittling his intelligence and sexual prowess – yes, you read that correctly.

Instinctively, I leapt to Ben’s defence and I wasn’t short on company. A mate of mine on Facebook (an armed forces rep, no less) unleashed an almighty rant against these TV presenters and was promptly joined by his defence force mates who opened fire.

Chief among their complaints was the fact that people who don’t serve in the armed forces can’t expect to know what it’s like to, as Nathan Jessup would say, “put your life in another man's hands, ask him to put his life in yours.”

I could not agree more, but the problem is, that’s not the whole story.

The ABC’s 7:30 program aired a story earlier in the week about a Facebook group devoted to sexist, misogynist and racist rants – all delivered by members or former members of the armed forces.

I won’t quote any of the statements (view the story for more information) but it’s quite shocking stuff.

So, on one hand, you have armed forces members who represent the best humanity has to offer. Yet, on the other hand, the armed forces are full of people who represent the worst humanity has to offer.

Perhaps this is because the armed forces are the ultimate melting pot of human society. Rather than stereotyping armed forces representatives, we should understand that those who serve their country are as diverse as those who work in any profession.

Some will be smart, others not-so-smart. Some brave, others not-so-brave. Some tall, some short. Lather, rinse and repeat.

So next time you leap to your feet to make a sweeping statement about those who serve your country, give it a moment before you speak.

Because some of the people you’re about to generally denigrate are those to whom we owe our livelihoods. And, conversely, those you are about to praise without qualification, could be pretty dodgy.

The lesson, as always, think before you speak.


Tiaan said…
Talking about 'thinking before speaking' - this sentence could have been more thoughtfully constructed... "Yet, on the other hand, the armed forces are full of people who represent the worst humanity has to offer"

...context won't save you on that sloppy line, because I'm pretty sure you didn't actually mean that...
Tiaan Again said…