Live Like A Soldier: Honor, Courage, and Other Outdated (but Important) Things on Veteran’s Day

As the country burns, let’s think about something better than this. 

Our nation’s military men and women. 

We just had Veteran’s Day (November 11) and the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps (November 8 or 10, depending on who you ask). 

The people who choose to serve are awesome and deserve our respect and gratitude. I’m not a “rah-rah” flag-waver who is uncritical about anything, but I love these men and women, and I do regret not serving when I was younger.

Which brings us to an interesting topic: The Military and Manhood. 

From the ancient Greeks through the USMC and the rest of the modern world’s armed forces, military service has inculcated many of the virtues traditionally associated with heathy manliness and masculinity. 

What virtues? Check out this excerpt from a 1952 U.S. Army field manual, shared by one of my favorite websites, The Art of Manliness:

When we say that a man has “good character,” we mean that he has many strong qualities and virtues that, added together, make him a man whom we like, respect, and trust. One definition of character, therefore, is this: The sum of the qualities that make a person what he is.

It’s not easy to tell you exactly what qualities and virtues you must have to be a good soldier, but perhaps you can understand better what is meant by a “soldier’s character” if you consider some of the qualities that all of our good soldiers have had. These qualities include honesty, courage, self-control, decency, and conviction of purpose. This is by no means a complete list, but those are the qualities that most good soldiers possess.

Honor. Courage. Self-control. Decency. Conviction of purpose. These things sound pretty good to me. 

I also like that our soldiers are killing machines when it comes to the bad guys, but these virtues temper those necessary instincts. 

A big part of the crisis in masculinity here in the West, I think, is the denegration of these virtues and the camaraderie military service and its attendant hardships teach and cultivate. 

I say without hyperbole one of my biggest regrets is not serving after high school. 

Yes, I graduated in 2000 so I would’ve likely been sent to Afghanistan or Iraq. But as any reader of this blog knows, I was adrift after high school, pretty much wasted my 20s, and despite my collection of degrees, I realize that college wasn’t for me

Have you met people who served? There on another level, right? You can pick them out right away, or even people whose parents were in the military. 

Every time I hang out with a friend who served, I do feel like less of a man. 

The older I get, the more I wonder of compulsory service for young men isn’t a good idea. 

Easy for me to say, being past the age where it would affect me personally. And I think this would never pass. But I’m just thinking out loud here. 

What seems to have worked for me personally is to try and live like I had served. I try to be professional, courteous, restrained, and courageous. 

It’s not easy. I get fed up sometimes. Emotional. And like the rest of us, act stupidly from time to time. But there are fantastic lessons to learn from veterans, and I think we as a nation are good to take them and what they do so seriously. 

To everyone who served: Thank you. I couldn’t do what I do without you. None of us could. 

To everyone still serving: The same, and may God keep you safe. 

To the rest of us: May we learn from your example of courage and self-sacrifice. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and @DaytimeRenegade

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