A brother asked one of the hermits, “If I happen to oversleep, and am late for the hour of prayer, I am ashamed that others will hear me praying so late, and so I become reluctant to keep the rule of prayer.” He said, “If ever you oversleep in the morning, get up when you wake, shut the door and the windows, and say your psalms. For it is written, ‘The day of Thine and the night is Thine’ (Psalm 74:16). God is glorified whatever time it is.” (from the sayings of the Desert Fathers)
“Has it escaped you that, in the eyes of gods and good men, your native land deserves from you more honor, worship, and reverence than your mother and father and all your ancestors? That you should give a softer answer to its anger than to a father’s anger? That if you cannot persuade it to alter its mind you must obey it in all quietness, whether it binds you or beats you or sends you to a war where you may get wounds or death?” – Plato
Interesting note on Veterans’ Day that I forgot to include in my last post: I have not spent a single Veterans’ Day at home since becoming a Veteran myself; every Veterans’ Day that I’ve spent in the Army I have either been deployed or training to become deployed. Something I realized today.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it will be like to get out of the Army in a couple of years. I think every Soldier spends a lot of time daydreaming, especially during downtime on a deployment, about what it will be like to be a civilian again. It’s still a few years away, but it’s often on my mind. I’m looking forward to it.
It will be great not to have to worry about deployments or training exercises anymore. It will be great not to have to wake up before the sun to do PT (“Physical Training”). I definitely won’t miss doing push-ups. And I can’t say I’ll miss wearing combat boots every day, either.
In other ways, though, it will be difficult. I notice every time I go home on leave how “out of place” I feel amongst civilians. I get agitated by the “disrespect” they show, and have to remind myself that they’re not programmed to follow up every sentence with a “sir” or “sergeant.” I get frustrated with what I’ve come to consider “petty” concerns, “whining,” and complaining. I’ve gotten pretty steamed at sports games as I watch the people around me leave their baseball caps on and chit-chat or fail to even stand up for the National Anthem. Even the haircuts and expanded waistlines get on my nerves after a while. And don’t even get my started on what I think when civilians start telling me they‘re opinion on “the War”!
I don’t expect the civilian world to adjust to make way for me, though. I’d like to make a few changes, certainly, but I know it’s me who has the most changes to make. As much as I’ve enjoyed being a Soldier and much as I love Soldiers, I’ll admit that we’ve got a lot of bad habits. I’ve been working on correcting a few of them lately, in preparation for my entry into the “real world.”
The biggest issue I have is the cussing. I don’t know who coined the phrase about “cursing like a sailor” but I doubt he ever met a Soldier. The Navy has nothing on us when it comes to the swears! Not only do we use them more frequently than any other group of people I know of, but we use them more creatively. I learn new and innovative ways to curse every day. We especially enjoy combining them with animal names. A couple examples: when somebody steals all of the “good stuff” out of an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) it’s called “rat-f***ing” it; when there’s nobody in charge of a group of Soldiers so a mission ends up in chaos, it’s called a “goat-f***;” when somebody tries to usurp another’s rightful authority, the individual may kindly ask if they might be allowed to “f*** this chicken.” In spite of what the media might be saying about us today, we don’t practice bestiality, I promise. Another example of typical Army ingenuity is that classic military-ism “FUBAR;” everybody already knows what that means.
It’s a hard habit to break. I do it often without even thinking about it; it’s just the way I speak anymore. The vocabulary of a single one of my sentences would easily be enough to get a movie an R rating. When I write e-mails home to grandparents, clergy, my wife, friends outside of the Military, etc I have to go over the e-mail a couple of times to ensure I didn’t accidentally tuck a four-letter word in there somewhere. It limits my selection of words when I’m speaking with the “uninitiated” as well. I often have to think hard and pause to remember what the “civilian way” (that is, the not vulagar way) of saying something is.
Another hard habit to break is a tobacco addiction. There aren’t many Soldiers who don’t use some form of tobacco. Unfortunately, I was a smoker coming into the Army, which gave me a base that I’ve steadily built upon. My half-pack of cigarettes per day has expanded to 1 and ½ packs, as well as the occasional chewing tobacco, cigar, or, in honor of the love for all things Arab we’ve picked up, hookah. Trying to stop the tobacco habit does nothing good for the first habit, either!
I’m going to try to break myself of these bad habits and others completely before I re-enter the civilian world. I’ll also try not to judge others as “lazy slugs” if their idea of fun isn’t going for a 5-mile run at five in the morning or “dirt bags” if their haircut isn’t “within the standard.” Show a little understanding for me and I’ll show some understanding for you. You better stand up, shut up, and take your hat off when the National Anthem is played, though!