How the Military Views Itself
When most people think of the military, they picture people wearing crisp, clean uniforms, delivering salutes to each other, saying, "Reporting as ordered, sir/ma'am!" and standing at attention for an award or a parade. When most veterans think of the military, that image doesn't quite come up in their minds.
For most, it's salt and sand. The military is hard, and from the first day of Basic Training, you might figure out that your level of tolerance for pain and irritation were not as high as you thought. Instructors prepare you, because much of your future life is unimaginably long hours, filled with the "red light green light" game of doing your job in sickening sprints. You'll never understand the phrase "a hard day's work" as well as a servicemember. Nor will you understand bureaucracy, patience, leadership, sacrifice, training, mission, or honor.
If you're an outsider, you might have a hard time understanding. Don't pretend you know more than you do. Your relative serving in the military doesn't give you salt. Be patient, listen, and try to understand.
Rank and rate or MOS matter less than you think. Experience, leadership abilities, and the personality matter much more. At the end of the day, it's about finishing the mission and getting home safe. Whoever can do that best is the one who is listened to and respected the most. Don't ever forget that.
The Navy Sonar Technician may have no idea what it was like for the Army Infantryman in Afghanistan, and the Infantryman probably doesn't know what it's like to be underway on a Submarine. The Air Force C-130 Pilot probably has a lot in common with the Marine Osprey Pilot, but they'll still probably argue over who produces better pilots. All servicemembers like to give each other a hard time, because they're proud of who they are and where they came from.
But truthfully, the Soldier respects the Marine for being able to do the same job with less equipment and support. The Marine respects the Sailor for maintaining the gritty 40-year-old ship that got them there. The Sailor respects the Airman for putting those GPS satellites in the sky that allow them to navigate so easily. And the Airman respects the Soldier for the lengthy combat tours they volunteered for. We're all a team.
In this world, you'll find many talented people who aren't getting everything they deserve. You'll also find the opposite. You can find the same in the military, but at least it tries harder than every other institution to be be fair. It's known as "the great equalizer", where awards and promotion are based on performance, and not connections ... usually.
No matter what, respect the rank. Most likely, the person wearing it earned it. But never underestimate how much salt and sand are worth.
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