The movie Top Gun is how I understood the military.
In my mind, I was weak and I believed war would make me complete.
I had a life full of wonder as a kid, but I only saw my problems.
My initial problem was how I looked.
That spread into all areas of my life as something that rendered me inferior to others.
To overcome this constant pattern of self loathing and shame I worked my butt off to prove to everyone that I was the man.
I was captain of my high school football team.
I became an eagle scout.
I joined a fraternity.
I could party with the best of them.
This was not enough.
When the war called, I answered.
Top Gun was what I wanted to happen to me.
I wanted to be changed by fire.
Remember when Maverick lands on the aircraft carrier and is greeted by throngs of cheering sailors?
He is smiling from ear to ear and then IceMan, his greatest doubter, comes up to him feigning anger only to say " you can be my wingman any time"
That all happened to me.
There were parties when I came home.
I was experiencing the walk into the sunset.
CROWN ME KING, HOOAH!
Little did I know that my old patterns were waiting.
Unlike the movies, life went on.
The wonder faded and there it was.
The boy I thought I had turned into a man crept ever so slowly back into my day.
I heard one of the presenters at the MilBlog conference last weekend say that out of 100 Smbrs maybe two would be experiencing PTS.
This presenter portrayed the military like Top Gun did.
Challenging, worthy of reverence, a humbling but ultimately life changing experience that would make you more than you were.
I think he gave as good a presentation as someone who has never served could, but his understanding, like mine before Armor Down, is a fantasy.
Had the question line not been so long and my chair so comfortable, I would have asked him this one question:
How difficult was it to accurately portray a SMBR without having to deal with the in-your-face potential of imminent DEATH?
He wouldn't have had an answer.
I fell back into my old patterns after war because while the training gave me many new tools and the war gave me many new experiences, I was still applying them to a fantasy.
If I get a Masters, then I will be whole.
If I get married, then I'll be complete.
If I get a great job.........and on and on.
War influenced me, but it didn't save me.
There were moments of absolute darkness when I thought it had destroyed me.
No, I didn't lose my mind, but I did feel overwhelming moments of complete and utter hopelessness at the notion that if being a War Hero didn't make me whole or complete then what the hell was I gonna do now?
They don't show those moments in the movies because the movies aren't real.
You can't find peace if you are looking outside yourself for it.
You must begin creating a new pattern.
Not a plan.
You begin your individual, self-created pattern with your breathing.
You study it every day, every moment.
As a new sustainable pattern develops, you begin to see a different part of you emerge.
The part of you that has been there all along, but has been mucked up by fantasy and the false hope that something outside yourself will fix you.
Ironically, the tower's message that Maverick ignored is the best message to take from Top Gun.
The pattern is full.
If you don't know or notice it yet, the entire military is Armoring Down. Drones are replacing manned jets.
Hell, the Air Force didn't even send a rep to the conference.
Huge cuts are coming to personnel across the board.
If you are still looking outside, I commend your courage, but know this: we SMBRS have a couple more years of attention from the mainstream.
I don't doubt that our politicians will do their best to ensure our welfare (it's in the political interests of both sides to do so) but remember, it's us who protect them, HOOAH.
Since you gotta start working on real life, your own life, you might as well begin with the thing that you know and that sustains us all: Breath.
The 10th Stanza of the Art of Peace is:
I will be posting every Thursday for the next 104 weeks. HOOAH.