A few months ago, my husband was noodling around on Facebook and on one of the military pages he follows (he's a veteran), he found this article about “stress cards” being issued in Basic, how it's become kind of a thing in recent years. He retired in '98 from the service, has a DD-214 to show for his hard work, still has his dress blue jacket, his field jacket, and his Basic Training yearbook. And his fierce loyalty to the military.
He read the article to me and explained what “stress cards” were. Now, I wanted to serve in the USAF from the time I was 8 years old, even spoke to a recruiter when I was 17. It didn't work out for me to be able to even sign up and get sworn in and all the fun that comes with going through the torture of Basic Training to become a hardened soldier for good ol' Uncle Sam. HOWEVER, my patriotism is as strong as the most seasoned veteran's. I may not have been able to wear the uniform, but my heart is still there. It still bleeds Old Glory's colors.
I don't know ALL that goes on in Basic, but I do know the Drills can be a bit ferocious (to be nice), from what my husband told me. He told me about what “smoking” is, and how you don't dare make yourself really noticeable to a Drill, or they make you their “special project.” It's best to just follow orders and fade into the masses as best you can.
When he read the article about stress cards, I listened carefully to every word. And over and over in my head kept coming one simple question: “Are you KIDDING me!?” What the hell happened to my country's military forces, people!? WHAT?! I want ANSWERS! I may never have had the honor to serve, but I am a firm believer that with the military, and any other profession you consider trying out, you must be well informed before signing on the dotted line while your potential employer looks on with that a-typical cheeky grin as you sign your soul over to them.
With the military, it's fairly common knowledge that you are going to be put through some serious training, some seriously hard core toughening up. These stress cards…. Well, my humble opinion is they make us look like a laughing stock to the rest of the planet. I mean, think about it. You made the conscious decision to sign your name over to learn how to be a FIGHTER. A WARRIOR. And let's face it, people, a KILLER. A defender of freedom. And you want to wave around a little index card that says, “You're scaring me! You can't yell at me for x amount of minutes!” WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN YOU'RE IN COMBAT?! Wave one of those cards at the enemy? Do you, honestly, think said enemy's going to stand down for an appointed amount of time so you can compose yourself? Really? Why are you even wearing that uniform? Why did you even sign that paper?! Are you SERIOUS?!
I just … I sat there and stared at my husband with each passing syllable he read, my jaw sagging further and further into my lap. By the time he was done, he looked up and saw me just staring slack-jaw at him, not able to utter a sound. I literally had no words for several minutes. This is incredibly rare for me, too, if I'm comfortable around you! I just sat there and shook my head and all I could say was, “wow.” For several minutes, that's all I could think to say was “wow.”
We're hated enough by other countries. Trust me, it's fairly obvious that we're the butt of a LOT of jokes in other nations. During the Clinton Administration, I'd met someone who was from Germany (this was back in the early days of the internet when the 56k modem was considered “high quality!”) and when he asked me where I hailed from, and I told him, he said, “I like your country. Your politicians keep us entertained here. It's like watching 'Jerry Springer' without the reruns.” OUCH! This guy didn't even KNOW me! And he's saying things like this about my country's authority figures! Granted, yeah, Clinton's shenanigans were looked upon with great disdain by not only myself but other Americans, as well, but still. That hurt a lot hearing someone in a completely different country half a world away say that. Yikes. And now here we are with these stress cards for our E-1s. Yeah, let's give the rest of the planet SOMETHING ELSE to laugh at our nation's way of life, shall we? No, I am not one who really cares what anyone thinks of me, I don't live my life to impress or entertain, but the fact of the matter is, you become a story we tell each other at the water coolers. You become fodder for writers – like myself – to write blurbs about. You become a statistic among the many, many people who thought that Hollywood was forthcoming in what goes on when the Brown Round is having a go at you. No. That is not how it works. That is all scripted. When you're in the thick of things, there's no one to magically come along and scream, “CUT!” and the scenery changes. And those little stress cards? They make you a JOKE amidst your peers in your unit. Your battle buddy is going to go to the Drill and say, “Can you please give me someone other than this guy? He's going to cry the whole time. I can't carry me AND him, too!” It's a sad reality, people.
Stress cards…. It just baffles me how soft it appears we've become. The enemy is NOT going to honor that little piece of paper, I can 10,000,000% guarantee you that! They are not going to come charging at you screaming their battle cry and when they get up to you and you throw this card and yell “Time out!” they're not going to skid to a halt and say, “Oh, okay, my bad. It's cool. Take all the time you need, bud. I have all day!” No, just no.
I mean, yeah, I'm a civilian, but even I know how to exercise common sense! DO YOUR RESEARCH before signing ANYTHING! When you give Uncle Sam that blank check, signed with your name, that's a very, VERY real thing! If you can't hack it, you shouldn't be sitting there talking to that recruiter. You're wasting his time when he could be signing up ferocious men and women who are ready, who are willing, and who are well-informed and still wanting to sign that paper. Step aside, Red. Let a REAL soldier show you how it's done!