What is a soldier?
Soldiers are heroes.
Jean M Twenge Ph.D., wrote about Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta and his experience during a battle: “In this job, I am only mediocre. I’m average. This was a situation that we were put into. I was just one brush stroke in that picture, and everyone else was one brush stroke in that picture. And while it wasn’t the first brushstroke of that picture, and it wasn’t the last brush stroke in that picture, and it wasn’t the best, it was just another brush stroke that helped complete this picture.”
Many would hold that soldiers are heroic and worthy of praise. It’s not difficult to see why. When people decide to join the army, they are making a conscious decision to leave their family and friends behind. They leave the comfort of their homes and go through rigorous, sometimes merciless, training sessions.
All for what? For their country, the nation, and the people who live in it. Once the training is done, they’re thrown into the heat of battle, where they risk their lives. They fight in the name of their country.
These men and women who sign up to fight in the army are making the ultimate sacrifice. Regardless of what side a soldier chooses, deciding to fight and possibly die for one’s country is a commendable act. It’s an act of putting others before oneself.
Soldiers choose to dedicate their lives to their country, despite many other, possibly more convenient, options. That is certainly something worthy of praise–something heroic.
Soldiers are monsters.
Others hold that these people are monstrous and should be loathed. Their entry into the army is a free pass to kill. One could even say it’s their special skill to kill on command. Indeed, soldiers can murder those they barely know. It’s in the job description, after all.
“There was an incident not long ago where a veteran had a violent outburst, and the media was all over it, talking about how folks with PTSD are violent,” Francine Roberts, PsyD told The Nation’s Health. “But the opposite is the truth. Veterans have no more potential for violence than anyone else.”
In the heat of battle, there are only those who are with you and those who are against you. One must simply protect the former and shoot the latter. Faces and names don’t matter.
What’s more, these people could be fighting for all the wrong reasons. True, they did give up a lot when they decided to enter the army. But what good would that be if they were fighting for the wrong?
Soldiers make themselves commodities–weapons that simply point and shoot. And there isn’t anything heroic about that.
Soldiers are humans.
We sometimes forget that these “heroes” or these “monsters” are just like us–humans.
Underneath all the badges and armor is a colleague, a comrade-in-arms, and a brave fighter. Behind the war paint and the rugged exterior is a parent, a sibling, and a son or daughter. Look past the stern expression, the battle scars, and the intimidating aura. Underneath all that is a human.
Humans can be heroes. They can choose to be altruistic and fight for the people of their country. They can choose to leave their lives behind for the sake of some greater good. And they can do things that are more than worthy of praise.
“I think there’s no substitute for people being able to number one, hear prestigious leaders talk about their own struggles with psychological injury. And the other thing is for them to see visibly that someone who has faced and gotten treatment for psychological injury continues to have a flourishing military career. I think the stigma is still a significant barrier in all of the military forces for officers and staff NCOs.” – Jonathan Shay, psychiatrist.
Humans are also fallible, able to make mistakes, like anyone else. This, however, does not make them monsters. When they fight for the wrong reasons, it’s not always their fault. Sometimes the blame falls on the higher-ups whose hearts are no longer in the right place. Yes, death is in the job description, but as sad as it seems, bloodshed is an inevitable consequence of war. Moreover, these men and women do not simply devolve into mindless, trigger-happy puppets. Many still have a choice in the matter. Many still listen to their conscience.
Soldiers are humans too. We mustn’t forget that.