Monday, February 24, 2014

Op/Ed on WI Honor Guard: Words (and pictures) Matter

Words have power: Use them wisely.

Last week social media was abuzz with news, and commentary,  of a series of photos taken by a  group of National Guards. The msm soon jumped in, and copies of those photos, and the accompanying cut-lines, became the topic du jour.

I first became aware of the gathering storm via a social media group of Gold Star Families, some of whom I have known and loved for many years.  Witnessing their pain and anguish in reaction, I followed the trail back to the origin of the offending - and offensive - pictures.   As often in the past, when any of our Troops have been cast in a bad light in the msm, I had no intention of writing about this specific incident. I usually choose not to join any public lynch mobs. However, as I watched and heard the Gold Stars,  I knew I had to share their perspective on the disrespect laid bare for all to see..  They gave me permission to share their thoughts, and that was this column.  

Within that column, I chose not to reprint the offensive photos, (unlike most msm reporting)  and instead chose to share pictures of the Fallen Heroes represented by the Gold Star Families' words.  As always, I was determined to give voice to those we rarely hear from, at least in print, in public.

The following day, the Adjutant General of the Wisconsin National Guard issued a public statement, with assurances that an investigation would be underway, and appropriate consequences  would occur. Despite my initial scepticism of any need for an investigation - to me, the photos  were all I needed for proof - since then,  I understand that some of the participants of those ill-chosen words and deeds has been suspended as the investigation proceeds.

All good, right? and we can be confident that these latest delinquents will feel the wrath of their Military command.   Yes, I really DO have confidence in our Military leadership (well, for the most part,) and the mainstream media seems to have moved on to the next headlines.

However, since I published the original column, my thoughts have been not only with our Gold Stars, but also with the hundreds of thousands of men and women of our Military, both Active Duty and Veterans. 

In short?  I feel as if I failed all our Military (past and present) and I am sorry.   As the furore raged this last week,  many Veterans (from all our recent Wars) commented both publicly and privately.  Their outrage and their condemnation was unanimous.

I feel that by my choice not to acknowledge the effect of these photos on all of our Military, I could be perceived as one of those who only ever writes about our Troops and Veterans when they have something negative happen.

Yes, I am well aware that it was not my photos/comments that caused the storm, and yes, I know that my complete body of work over the years clearly demonstrates my unwavering support for our Troops.  However,  by my own ill-chosen words in that one column,  I added to the arsenal of those who always salivate over anything they can find to smear all our Troops in a bad light.  As many in the new and old media know,  some stories drive up readership, and affect the bottom line.  On the former, I can report that this is true right here on this site.  The day my headline was "WI NG..." I had more daily readers than I have had on any other single day for the past year. 

I can safely deduce that many who found my column were not regular readers, but were driven here on a quest to feed their need for negative news about our Military..  By my perhaps poorly chosen words, I feel that I gave those fly-bys more ammunition, to reinforce their own anti-Military biases. I regret that.

By my own editorial comments, (and omissions) I know I did a disservice to our men and women, who never makes the headlines, as they Serve with integrity.   Through my own lapse in judgement, I fell into the 'he we do not name' school of hack journalism. I have edited the original now (the joy of being an independent!) and removed what I consider inappropriate and unacceptable.

Over the years of online writing,  I have learned a few lessons, which I suspect those young National Guards are discovering the hard way: the internet is forever (and never private); once you have put something out there, you lose all control over it, and whilst you the originator know what you meant by any specific posting - your intent -  you have no control over any future readers/viewer's interpretation. Once a word or image is on the internet, its reach becomes global, often to places unimagined by the poster. Those who insist on posting pictures of their youthful indiscretions on the internet, discover that their choices will come back to haunt them (Mouth In Chief, anyone?)  I guess these young miscreants never read This Ain't Hell who, when these incidents occur,  frequently advise: don’t act a fool, and certainly, don’t take pictures of it and post it to the internet, FFS

Our Military has many enemies,  both foreign AND domestic. Those enemies drool at any opportunity to portray our Serving men and women in a negative light, all the while totally ignoring the good they do day in, day out, for years.   No matter that this current group of jack asses represent but a tiny 'smidgen' of the majority wearing the uniform; our Military's enemies never miss a chance to use any propaganda tool to cover all our Troops with the cloak of the usual inaccurate vitriol that they so delight in to paint anybody in a Military uniform. Oh and yes, murderers in international Terrorist networks do use the internet, and use any negative press about our Military as weapons against us.  It seems that every time a small handful of our Troops (or Veterans) is caught on camera during a momentary lapse of judgement, anti-Military politicians, and the msm, also rush to heap a full measure of scorn on the entire Military community.   (John Murther ring a bell?)

This latest example of  'letting loose' by a handful of our Troops disrespected all our Fallen Heroes and was in direct contradiction of the training and mindset they are expected to uphold.  Every Military member I know (Veteran and Active Duty,)  strongly condemns as 'indefensible' the behaviour of the latest delinquent Soldiers. As we all should.

I don't know these particular Soldiers,  so I cannot say what was in their minds when they a) took the pictures, or b) when they posted them...I have no clue of any of their backgrounds.  However,  I do know this:  these photos and their actions, are now the public - permanent - record of their infamy.   I also know that when any recruit swears an oath upon enlistment  into our Military, they then become the representative of the whole profession.  It is no longer about one individual, but of the common goal to serve a larger ideal.

Our Fallen Heroes, their families, all our Troops,  have earned our respect.  I apologise if any of MY previous words fed into the festering pus that is the anti-Military crowd. Our Troops deserve better from me.

Words have power - I will use them more wisely in the future...

(H/T Deb)

[Bratnote This one is for all who have paid the ultimate Sacrifice - and those Troops and Veterans who continue their honourable Service - protecting my rights to free speech and my rights to prove what an ass I also can be! : Sgt Major MacKinder, SSG Cowdrey, SSG Arnette, SGT Stokely, SSG May, MAJ Galloway, and so many more that I am privileged to know and love..  Thank you.]


Susan Duclos said...

Awesome piece... SHARED!

Amanda said...

As always - written with love of country, fellow man and from the heart.

Anonymous said...

I'm distressed by the initial insensitivities carried out for sure, and as a long time reader, if little commentator, I'm disappointed that you berate yourself in such a way but proud of you none the less for having the courage to do so.

I remember the Arlington "lady", RAF movement personnel, USAF personnel, Royal Marine, US Army, in fact pretty much anyone in a uniform performing, at best ill advised, at worst wholly immoral acts filmed for their enjoyment opening their own Pandora's boxes'for our "enjoyment".
I use that word as so many enjoy the fallout more than remembering the victims.

You didn't fall into any trap, anyone who picks up a quill, dons a uniform, kicks a football, sings a song etc submits themselves to public scrutiny, applause, condemnation, lies based on rumours and know there are people who trawl for information and twist it for their own ends.

If we didn't have a point of view we wouldn't tap away on our keyboards... And crucially we should NEVER live in fear of expressing our views no matter how unpalatable to some.

Anyone who has read your work knows you and knows how much love and support for our troops of MANY nations, their families, friends and colleagues has been forthcoming on a personal level from you.

Hold your head high and "carry on, carrying on" as your pen is mightier than your words twisted against you.

With respect, a veteran.

Michael D. Mullins said...

I think you are too hard on yourself, my dear Brat. I fear that my satirical remarks exacerbated the situation and for that I am sorry. Anyone who knows or follows you can never doubt your love, respect and sincerity. Those who don't simply do not matter. Had they seen the posts they would have said what they said without your having posted a single thing. You have written wisely in this piece and it should serve as a reminder to me and any other reader that, yes, words matter.