Tag Archives: military service

Movember Memories: A Story About Sweat (And Other Manly Issues)

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Greetings and I hope everyone is in the Movember spirit. Last year, I decided to become a part of this effort. I feel it’s an objectively good cause that aims to help real people in need. I sincerely hope others join that effort over time.

For those who are unaware, Movember is a movement that started with the Movember Foundation. This foundation works to raise awareness of and donate money towards major issues that predominately impact men. Those issues include research for prostate cancer, mental health treatment, and suicide prevention. These are all wonderful causes to support and I encourage everyone to donate to the foundation.

As part of my effort to help with this cause, I shared a personal story last year about the time I grew a thick beard in college and some of the colorful lessons that taught me. This year, I’d like to do something similar and tell another story. However, this is a different kind of story and one I think offers a more relevant message to the Movember spirit.

This particular story comes from right from one of the most respectable men in my life, my father. He told me this story a few years back when he recounted the time he’d spent in the military. It’s a story that, at the time, we just thought was funny. I still think it is. I also think it has a deeper message that’s more relevant today, especially for men.

Before I continue, I want to make clear that I may not get all the details of this story correct. My father, who I know occasionally reads this site, might reach out to me and note a few corrections. If that’s the case, I’ll gladly update it. That said, I recall enough to ensure I can capture the heart of the story.

The setting of this story is fairly simple. It’s the mid-1970s on a military base in the Midwest. At the time, my dad is done with basic and is officially on active duty. However, he hasn’t been deployed so much of those duties involve basic grunt work around the base. It’s a typical, standard military life for a young man at the time.

One unique part of that life, however, involved a grizzled old officer who, out of respect for this amazing American, I’ll just call the Colonel. The Colonel is basically the senior officers of senior officers at the base. He’s been in the military all his life. He fought in World War II. He probably knows General Patton’s shoe size.

He’s also old enough and has enough seniority to not have a filter. He does not give a damn and won’t hesitate to say the things that would get a typical private punched in the jaw. As a result, he has a special kind of respect and admiration from young soldiers, like my dad. They would gladly share a beer with the Colonel and joke with him without the fear of push-ups.

While that lack of a filter made him popular with soldiers like my dad, it made the Colonel a nuisance to the other officers. Most were content to just overlook his charming personality and chalk it up to being a cantankerous old man. However, that same jaded charm sometimes caused a spectacle.

This one particular spectacle occurred on a day in which the officers and recruits had another regular meeting in the barracks. This was standard for active duty soldiers and my dad had gone through it many times before. He sat in his assigned seat with the rest of his unit. The officers, including the Colonel, sat in the back.

These meetings were often tedious, but a big part of what made them such a drag was the heat. These barracks did not have air conditioning and were not well-ventilated. It was basically an over-sized locker room, full of several dozen men in full military gear. Needless to say, it got uncomfortably sticky at times.

However, since this was the military and good soldiers were conditioned not to complain, nobody said anything about it. My dad certainly didn’t. No one in his unit did, either. They all wanted to. It was one of the most common complaints among his unit.

Finally, one day, the Colonel spoke up. His exact words were as follows.

“Hey! How come no one wants to talk about sweat?”

For other young soldiers, like my dad, who had sat through one too many sweaty meetings, it was a true Spartacus moment. This old guy who hadn’t given a fuck since the Kennedy Administration finally said what they all were thinking. It still earned him an irate look from the other officers, but he got the message across.

This was an issue. It mattered to them. It was taboo to bring up so the one guy whose filter died years ago broke it. It might not have solved the problem, but acknowledging it was a good start.

I wish I could describe the grin on my dad’s face when he first told this story. I could tell it was a fond memory from a strange time in his life, but it’s a story that still resonates with me. It’s also one I think we can learn from.

One of the chief goals of the Movember Foundation is to raise awareness of issues that affect men, but that’s tricky these days, given the current state of gender politics. When the topic of men’s issues come up, it often gets cast aside as rabid anti-feminism or cloaked misogyny. Even if there are legitimate issues, such as prostate cancer and mental health, it still carries negative connotations.

I get the sense that has changed somewhat in recent years. I think there has been somewhat of a backlash to the more extreme elements of gender politics. Issues that effect men are being taken more seriously and I think the Movember Foundation is helping with that. The challenge is being the one to stand up in a hot, crowded room and asking the questions that others are afraid to ask.

How come no one wants to talk about sweat?

You could just as easily apply that to other issues involving men.

How come no one wants to talk about the disparity in cancer research between prostate cancer and breast cancer?

How come no one wants to talk about men committing suicide at higher rates?

How come no one wants to talk about men falling behind in pursuing higher education?

How come no one wants to talk about male victims of domestic abuse?

These are all real issues that effect real people. At the end of the day, regardless of what our gender is, we’re still human. Even issues that effect only part of us ultimately impact all of us. I hope we can all channel the spirit of the Colonel and ask why we’re not talking about these issues. While that old man might not be with us, his message still is. It started with sweat, but it can apply to much more.

Again, in the spirit of Movember, please consider donating to the Movember Foundation and supporting the meaningful work it does.

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Filed under gender issues, Jack Fisher's Insights, men's issues, sex in society, sexuality

Happy Memorial Day 2018!

us-soldiers

Today is a special, but bittersweet day for many. For most people, Memorial Day is just the day you recognize as when all the pools open and everyone starts planning a trip to the beach. I admit that’s how I saw it as a kid. As we grow and learn about the hardships of this world, we come to appreciate it’s more profound meaning.

Memorial Day is, as declared in the act that made it a federal holiday in 1968, a date for remembering those who lost their lives in the wars that helped shape the history and character of a country. While I know it is trendy among certain crowds to criticize and even bemoan the character of a country that once owned slaves, that doesn’t make the sacrifice of these brave soldiers any less honorable.

Say what you will about those who craft the policy or agenda of a country, but those who choose to serve it are worthy of our respect and admiration. It takes a special something to be willing to lay your your body, your life, and your principles on the line for your country. That takes a strength that not everybody has.

I’m lucky enough to know some of that strength personally. I have close family members, both alive and deceased, who served in the United States Military in various forms. I have family who served back in World War II in the Pacific. I have family who served in the army. I even have one who served in Vietnam as a marine.

I see in these people who I love and cherish as embodiments of the strength it takes to serve. Just growing up with them, learning from them, and sometimes getting lectured by them have helped forge my character and that of my family. They help teach me what it means to be honorable, strong, and selfless.

Even those who didn’t serve directly in the armed forces still found ways to contribute. One of my female relatives worked in a torpedo factory during World War II. She did that when other relatives tried to discourage her out of concern for her safety, but she did it anyways. She was just that kind of strong.

Female Soldier

Even with this strength, though, there were losses. These same relatives who show such strength and honor for their service also show the price that comes with that service. Some of the people they served with never came home. There were also plenty that did who did not come back in one piece, physically and mentally.

These days, that price is easy to overlook in an era of political upheaval and evolving agendas. My family understands that more than most, but not as much as some have suffered. On a day like this, it’s important to remember and reflect on those who suffered fron their sacrifice. Their losses have helped ensure that we have a society and civilization in which we can thrive.

Even though war, as a whole, has been in decline over the past century, such progress was only possible through the sacrifice of these soldiers. Some of them never got to live to see the world they helped create. Some may never know just how much their toil helped shape the world. That makes days like this that much more important.

Memorial Day Parade

Beyond the parades and barbecues, it’s just as critical to honor the spirit that every active soldier and experienced veteran embodies. Whether it’s within your own family or in those close to you, today is a day to celebrate the ideals they pursued and the burdens they bore.

It’s also a great time to contribute to any veteran-related charities. Some include The Wounded Warrior Project and Home For Our Troops. Whether it’s contributing money or just spending time with those close to you who served, every little act helps to honor their sacrifice.

Once more, to all who serve now and to all who have served before, especially those who are no longer with us, I thank you for your strength and your sacrifice. Happy Memorial Day and please continue to honor the ideals that make this country and others worth defending.

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