1980s Military Life

From a veteran and LRC reader:

I was an Air Force pilot in the 1980s, and I have to disagree with the Marine who wrote you claiming that the military instills (I am assuming, Christian) values.

When I went through RF-4 training in 1983 I took my girlfriend (eventually she became my wife) to a squadron Christmas party. It seemed very weird, and the interactions between many of the instructors and their wives was unsettling and uncomfortable to be around. After I was sent overseas, I found out that all those officers and their spouses were “wife swapping.”

In my first operational unit in the Pacific, my first flight commander, a senior captain who was known as a “wonder boy” whose career was being directed by some general officer, was the most heavy drinking, womanizer that I have ever met (including four years of college!). Although I was inclined to go out drinking with the boys, he was non-stop in my face trying to get me to experience the Korean prostitutes. Every minute I spent around him was disgusting, but he was untouchable because of his reputation among the senior officers that he had that “wonder boy” status. He eventually took care of himself and ceased having his indiscretions ignored when he sexually assaulted the wife of one of the other officers in the squadron (causing her obvious injuries). As far as I was concerned, he didn’t get to Leavenworth fast enough.

After being so disabused of the notion that the officer corps was composed of moral people that put service to others above self, I then spent three years assigned to an Army post (Fort Hood, TX). Before I left high school, I had nominations to both the Air Force Academy and West Point. As my dad was a retired Army NCO, but the Air Force offered the opportunity to fly, I initially had a hard time deciding which nomination to accept. Even though I accepted the AF nomination for different reasons, I did have a pointed discussion with a friend who was a retired AF lieutenant colonel. He told me that there was a huge difference in the class of people in the Air Force and the Army, and that I would be wise to choose the AF. At the time, I was somewhat offended by that (for I had great respect for both him and my father), but over the course of my career I found his analysis to be accurate, and his advice to be sage. Being with the Army was another eye opening experience.

Although I met many fine people during my years in the military, there were many more who were seriously deficient in moral character. The fact that most US military bases in the world (in the US and overseas) are surrounded by bars, brothels, and pawn shops is hardly indicative that the majority of our men/women in uniform are of upstanding moral character. It was a difficult decision to resign in 1990, but I felt at the time that my choice was either my career or my marriage (my wife never really accepted or adapted to the military lifestyle). It turned out to be the best decision that I have ever made. Even though I was a “true believer” at that time, over the late 1990s reading LRC slowly swung me around to live out my Catholicism more fully, and to be able to distinguish between living a moral life and obeying the dictates of the (immoral) state.

Smedley Butler’s book “War is a Racket” is the best short tome that helped me accept that the many good people in the military are hoodwinked as to the nature of the state, and the nefarious role that the military has to play in it. I live in an AF retiree area, and at Mass this morning we sang “God Bless America” before the clergy processed out of the church. I had to choke back tears, not for the many people I know who lost their lives in “service” to this country, but rather for the loss suffered by their loved ones after I realized that each of them had given their life in vain. Additionally, I ask God’s blessing for those young people whom I know in today’s military (I am a high school teacher), and that they open their eyes to Christ and not stain their souls by participating in the violence commanded of them by the state in the many unjust and unholy actions that our government perpetrates across the world today.

Used with permission.


3:55 pm on August 20, 2013