Now I know what you are thinking, ‘This is going to be a long spiel on how horrible alcohol is and I’m getting real sick and tired of it.’ Relax, take a breather… I’m addressing something a little more casual, something I’ve personally observed during my time in the United States Army as an Infantryman.
Day in and day out, the mundane and repetitive life of sorting through storage, navigating toxic leadership and tolerating an ungrateful nation. The lives of the men and women in our armed forces is one that goes unnoticed.
Perhaps because of the reputation that proceeds it: if they joined the military, they must be pretty stupid, right? They couldn’t possibly cut it in the real world, so they decided to join the outfit that treats grown men like five year olds and walks them through every avenue of life, right down to the proper way to tie your boots.
I’m not here to discuss the disrespect service members endure, or anything along those lines. Rather, I’m speaking on the self-destructive tendencies that come from their lifestyle; particularly the infantryman, the self-proclaimed steward of death.
Through my time, I discovered there was a rapidly developing pattern among my fellow soldiers, one that even I shared. That’s right: Alcohol.
It wasn’t casual drinking, not a few drinks here and there after a long day of work—it was a whose who of who can get plastered the quickest, who could drink the most and who could spill the entirety of their heart, crying over a poorly mixed glass of Jack and Coke.
We boasted of our alcoholism. We were proud of it. We became bartenders, dancers and jackasses. No one ever really had a problem with it, like minded individuals seldom got into squabbles, but when they did… it was anything but a simple brawl; the violence in the eyes of a man so far gone, who for some reason was trying to choke the life out of his best friend, while five others tried to stop him and two cheered them all on.
It might have seemed twisted, even strange—but it was comradery. There were no closer friends, no truer family in our lives.
For those of us that dwelled in the barracks, the people we saw every single day almost every single hour of the day, the people that we trained with, got smoked with and endured every annoyance the Army could throw at us: they were our real family.
The pattern grew truer. With each new wound, we would find ways to cover up the pain.
Your girlfriend left you? We’re gonna get plastered.
Your car got totaled? We’re gonna get plastered.
You are bored? We’re gonna get plastered.
As time went on, we needed less reason to drink and more quantity of said drink.
There were some upsides to this: we shared our feelings of inadequacy, our moments of weakness and shed every masculine shroud we wore on a day to day basis.
Still, I have seen many a friend turn to the bottle and drink themselves, quite literally, to death. This is the sad truth that comes with this, and though we and many others to this day jokingly call ourselves alcoholics… the problem runs deeper.
Now I won’t slap the bottle out of your hand and I won’t preach as if I wasn’t a bonified liquor connoisseur myself… but I will urge you to stay very away of the mindsets of your comrades, your fellow soldiers—your family.
Some of them are tilting close to the edge and all it takes is that one little push to force them past the point of no return, and no soldier should die anywhere alone.