Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Veterans (Most Espicially Combat Veterans) Hate the "Middle Ground"

Name a decision in your life.  The more difficult the better.  Should you break up with this person and pursue another?  What college should I go to?  What career should I take?  A lot of the decisions that weigh heavily on most civilians, tend not to weigh too heavily on Veterans.  Indeed, most Veterans have a manner which is almost what one might call brusk when it comes to people that are indecisive.  I can tell you as a Veteran, we can't stand such people.  Again there's no magic powder that it put in the water that makes our patients stretch thin when Joe Civilian waffles, rather it is a certain knowledge that right or wrong, good politics or wrong, indecisiveness will get you hurt. 

It is not that there is a disrespect for the risk adverse.  Many good NCOs would tell you they have a healthy respect for risks and like to avoid them as much as possible.  Many Officers, will take what they consider a safe course, to avoid dangers they might perceive as unnecessary.  But one thing every NCO and Officer, absolutely despises is when Higher can't make up their mind about what they want to do.  Do we cross this road here, or 100 meters south or north?  In the battle of LZ Albany, just following the Battle for LZ X-ray made famous in the movie "We Were Soldiers" (Based off the book We Were Soldiers Once. . . and Young by Joe Galloway) The commander of 2/7 Cav did just that, he was uncertain and called for a leaders huddle, right when they walked into an ambush.  Many very good Soldiers died in one of the most brutal battles of the entire Vietnam War (on par with Hill 875).  You see Private or Colonel, indecisiveness gets you killed. 

But it isn't just combat, that sets up the attitude of "Just make up your damned mind already!"  One of the things no one seems to remember about the military life are all the happy little details that must be done, and right now.  Of course most of these details are an emergency because someone wasn't quite sure what the tasking was and wanted to get clarification from higher, and when said clarification came back they had a grand total of half an hour to put together a detail.  You can't believe the kind of things that will come down.  "Area Beautification".  Pick cigarette butts out of rocks (or paint said rocks), you have a half hour to accomplish your mission.  Go.  Of course it always comes out eventually that someone knew about this tasking and waited till Close of Business to tell someone of actual authority at which point it becomes an emergency.  

Privates always gripe about how, if they had the power, oh, things would be so much different.  Then those Privates become Sergeants, and they are given unclear directives, or missions.  The LT doesn't know what to do, so the Sergeant has to make it happen . . . somehow.  But then you say if I were an LT, but then if you ever do  become an LT you face the same thing.  At some point you begin to realize there is no rank in the military where the uncertainty of Higher won't have you pinching the bride of your nose wishing they'd just make up their damned mind!  I think any civilian that heard some of the conversations Generals had in private about some of the political leaders might have their head turned.  Of course you can never ever say such things.  A military man or woman must always keep their bearing about them.  So inside their own thoughts they seethe with indignation at the indescisiveness that wastes precious time (their time!) and can potentially lead to more headaches to fix, and more danger.

When a Veteran tells you simple facts, they expect simple answers.  No we didn't just read you War and Peace and ask you what happened on pave 875.  We asked you a simple question.  Try imagining the black and white of a battlefield.  More often than not you have little more time than a simple yes or no.  Both choices could get you killed.  Doing nothing will get you killed.  You tend to make a decision and like the Nike slogan, Just Do It!  

Unfortunately for us, this black and white approach to decision making doesn't always translate well to the civilian sector.  Sometimes the answer may just be a provisional one.  A lot of the time Customers simply don't know what they want.  More often than not people do not understand why they do not have a choice.  I have had the experience of trying to explain that Tires simply could not be fixed.  Usually at that point the tires are junk but people don't want to hear me.  Even when I tell them that the tire can and will blow, and potentially hurt them, they want it done their way, and don't seem to understand reality.  No matter how I explain the dangers they will do what they want to do.  It frustrates me to the point of wanting desperately to bang my head against a wall. 

It is often hard for civilians to understand why our patients wear so thin at you're actions.  We are not angry all the time, nor are we particularly disturbed by you.  We have enough sayings in our repertoire that hint, with varying levels of vulgarity, that you can go left you can go right, just make a damn choice.  There are times I wonder, if perhaps we as a society would be better served by not vasilating, and simply make a choice based on the information at hand.  Sometimes the debates need to end and actions are required.  Veterans are after all men and women of actions. 

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