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July 7, 2009
The Mysterious Words of PowerBy Greyhawk
We must support the troops - in many ways that phrase sounds hackneyed now, even though many who used (and still use) it actually follow up with action - from emails to care packages to grabbing a lunch tab to spending time with the recovering wounded or petitioning their congressional representatives on specific issues that might impact the troops and their families. I'm proud to know many of those action-oriented folks myself, and while I was one of those troops for quite a long time and couldn't personally use the phrase without experiencing a sort of discomfort as potential beneficiary I certainly appreciate those who meant it when they said it.
But I also know that there are many who derided those who said it (or had it on a bumper sticker - as my wife does) based on the possibility that they didn't really mean it or that their definition might be different. I can speculate endlessly on logical (and illogical) justifications for that position, but regardless of the validity of the arguments I can also concede that the phrase itself has become somewhat worn with the passage of time. Like the bright yellow ribbons that are (to so many non-subscribers to the ideal or non-participants in the effort) the only visible manifestation of that ideal, much of the luster of the new has certainly faded away. Still, that doesn't diminish the simple truth: we must indeed support the troops. Don't you agree?
Perhaps we need a new phrase, then. New terminology, new words to replace the old - with the original meaning (and good intent) intact. Or maybe we already have them...
Yesterday I mentioned - in another context - what I've come to recognize as Democratic Party talking points on military/veterans issues. ("All good points, by the way. But when will we see some action beyond talking? What will that action be?") You see, I share the opinion that without action those words are meaningless, at best nothing more than some sort of mantra that once spoken (maybe there's a hand gesture involved, too?) lends the speaker some sort of perceived power over (or shield from) questioners that I can't fully understand.
On the other hand, I have this concern (maybe I'm the only one) that I should exercise caution when citing a lack of action associated with these words - that while supporting the troops can be as simple a thing as an appreciative email to a lonely front line soldier, that maybe these particular words are in fact so powerful that they can be used to justify any action - even ones that have only a vague impact on military families.
I still don't know the answer to my questions, but for the record, here are those talking points as delivered by Joe Biden in Iraq: "...I realize the kinds of sacrifices that the military families are making. Beau was talking to me last night, he's pointing out multiple deployments have caused significant divorce rates, custody issues... real human problems that these deployed forces have."
That's certainly seems more detailed than "we've got to support the troops" (or is it just the same thing/more words?) - but while I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment I still have no real idea what his point was - he proposed no actions whatsoever. ("Free" group counseling sessions? Outlaw divorce? Disband the military? Have the government take custody of military children? Surely not...)
But damned if a version of those same words didn't just turn up again somewhere else in a slightly different form and context:
"I haven't done any kind of extensive review. And what I feel most obligated about is to make sure I tell the president, you know, my - give the president my best advice, should this law change, on the impact on our people and their families at these very challenging times," he said.
That's Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, on Don't Ask Don't Tell. (But he's not clear on any associated action either - beyond inferred studying of impact.) But given the range of applicability of these mysterious new words of power I can only conclude that even while they're beyond my comprehension as just a guy with 24 years experience at the head of a military family those are powerful words indeed. But I'm not sure if I'm one step closer to or farther from figuring out what they mean.
Maybe it's nothing.
Posted by Greyhawk / July 7, 2009 10:41 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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