Today, I watched a movie title Mudbound on “Netflix”. The movie starred Carey Mulligan, James Clarke & Mary J. Blige. Directed by Dee Rees. On the IMDb, it received 7.5/10 and a 97% rating on the Tomatometer.
The movie depicts 2-Mississippi families; one-black and one-white, confronted by the harsh reality of prejudice, during the divided World War II era, 1941. However, a commonality forms a friendship, in-spite of non-acceptance, during the Jim Crow South.
Now, anyone that knows me know that I love war movies (and Marvel Comics), especially the ones where the good guys win. Theres nothing like a war movie where MY guys “kick ass and take names”. When I watch them, I can feel levels of sadness, pride and honor just knowing that I too served with members of that caliber. I too know some who whooped the bad guys and came out on top. Theres no feeling like it. I’ll be the first to admit, when the good guys are KIA (killed in action), I cry. Sometimes I cry softer, then there are times when I feel a big ole lump of something in my throat. Yes, Im that person. Call me a sentimentalist.
To not give the movie away or be a spoiler alert for those who hadn’t seen it, Ill just say this: Movies like this truly confirm it for me the power of the military uniforms. There is something that no matter what is happening in the world, the sheer commonality of the service uniform, regardless of what branch, brings people together. In this movie, Jamie McAllan, a white veteran officer, played by Garrett Hedlund, was willing to sacrifice his life to save the life of Ronsel Jackson, a black veteran non-commissioned officer, played by Jason Mitchell.
During my tenure in the military, I served with people who never talked or interacted with blacks prior to joining. Now granted this was during the 1990’s but Im sure that somewhere in the world there are those who’ve stayed in their town and aside from the townspeople they hadn’t interacted with others; especially ones of different nationalities and origins.
On the contrary I recall a job I had post-miliary whereas there was only one other person who worked there, who was too a veteran. During the time I called in by the manager, the other veteran was present to the deliver the message of my termination. I can tell you, I was mortified by actions of the assistant manager(AM). Their job title was of that of an assistant manger but I felt that our bound as prior service members(SM) should’ve ran deeper then the jobs as an A.M.
Back to the movie. I believe that it depicts what it means to be a veteran, a service-member and proof that sometime just those titles can change a persons outlook on life. No, I don’t believe that everyone views will change. In fact some people will be the same but managed to mask who they are while they are serving.
This isn’t a blog about racism or overcoming racism, this is about a family, or forming of a brother(sister)hood because of the uniform in-spite of the prejudices that were taught, This blog is about the power of the uniform. This blog is about the kind of love and respect we should have for one another in the world regardless of the prejudices or racism we were taught or adopted as normalcy throughout life. We all make a choice, when we become adults and no longer live under our parents rules we have choices.
You never know who will be the person in the red-nose B52 that comes along and save your life in the face of death.
Excuse me while I play “devils advocate” slightly.
I was listening to the radio the other day while riding in my car, and the radio DeeJay was interviewing a rapper/performer. Ironically, the artist was speaking about staying relevant in today’s music industry. I though the message was loud and clear to younger children, especially those who are impressionable or naive. I got what the intend was supposed to be but I didn’t understand why the word “relevant” had to be used. Couldn’t it have been replaced with popular or some other word that celebrities use? I mean, to a 14-year old kid, apparently being relevant is everything and if you aren’t then you aren’t worth a ‘bag of beans’…..is that the message here?
Often times I’ve noticed that my relevance is something that is dictated by the people who I keep in my circle of life. I can say to my children “I am relevant”; to my friends, “I’m relevant”; to my God, “I know that I am relevant”. However, lately I’ve been forced to ask myself “how much relevance do I hold without the input or opinions of others”? AM I relevant to myself?
If I took the time to define this word, what would Webster and Google have to say?
Webster: 1.relation to the matter at hand
b: practical and especially social applicability : pertinence giving relevance to college courses
2: the ability (as of an information retrieval system) to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user
Google: the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.
Webster’s definition suggests that I need to be “satisfying to the needs of the user”. AND Google states that I need to be “closely connected or appropriate”.
Both definitions leads me to almost believe the fact that unless there are others involved, then I’m not all that relevant. SO is this the same as the old philosophical thought of “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If Im not relevant to someone other than myself, then am I relevant? Even a little?
Who knows, maybe I’m just being very sensitive to the word. Maybe I put too much emphasis on a 3-syllable word. But there are other words such as “important” which has 3-syllables as well! If Im going to concentrate and define myself on a 3-syllable word, then won’t it behoove me to use this one? Doesn’t it add more value to me and caters more to my self-esteem? Or what about “bomb-dot-com” that has 3-syllable as well and I’ve heard the young kids use this all the time in a positive matter. Then there’s other words that comes to mind. Those such as “powerful” or “successful” or “lovable” or “intelligent” (wait that’s 4-syllables) but you get the picture.
Each piece is uniquely relevant; no other piece can take its place.
I read a blog that suggested “staying relevant In your art means you are paying attention and awake while everyone else is asleep”. This may be true but can’t we use a more kinder word? Cant we call this as being “ambitious”? Or what about eagered?
SO, am I to assume that not being relevant to any-one thing is being irrelevant?
I’m convinced that the word “irrelevant” is a harsh word. I mean, who wants to be told that they are irrelevant?
Is there a gray area? What’s in the middle of relevant and irrelevant? Respect is in the middle; Responsible is as well; Reminded is the biggest. We have to be reminded that no matter where life takes us, no matter who says we aren’t, we are all RELEVANT….we have to just believe it. Believe that it doesn’t matter what the naysayers think.
You are the one that matters; you have to believe.
This is the time of year for cheers, celebrations, family gatherings, gift-giving and gift-receiving. This is the time of year that more money then usual is spend, more folks will travel by plane, train or automobile.
This is also the time of year where most folks will eat food thats not normally cooked throughout the year and promise to start a new diet as soon as this time of year is over.
This is even the time of year where marital engagements will happen and the time of year will cause babies to be born 9-months from now. Cold winter tends to bring people closer and the unplowed snow roads forces many to stay home.
This is also the time of year where some kids will get what they asked Santa for and other will get a bag of lumped coals.
Yeah-most people have mixed feelings about this time, but overall, its the most festive time of year.
But did you know that this is also the time of year that many of our country sons and daughters are missing their love ones back home? Their missing them due to an assignment or a deployment that prevents them from sharing those holiday festivities the way that more then 90% of Americans are doing. They are away fighting a “never-ending war” or somewhere protecting a border or somewhere trying to keep the peace between people that have different views and religious preference then others.
They will miss their love ones during this time of year. Someone has to man the post and because of this, not everyone can go on leave at the same time. However, for this they do get to leave their assignment post, on-by-one, case-by-case someone has to approve or disapprove who gets to share these moments with their loved ones this holiday season.
Unfortunately this is the time of season whereas service members get lonely. Loneliness cause depression and depression often couple with loneliness can sometime lead to suicide. Granted, no state is spared from veterans suicides, however, Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico had the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014. In fact veterans account for more then 20% of suicides in the US although vets only account for less then 10% of the US population.
There are programs available that support veterans especially during this time of the year. The folks joined together in this cause provide gifts to military families in need, help with food for their family and offer paid and or discounted travel arrangements is thats what can get the service member to their family for the holiday.
These services include: (www.militatyimes.com)
Pay Away The Lay Away
Military Benefits is proud to have partnered with Pay Away The Layaway to support military families by paying off their layaway balances at the Exchanges and retail stores. Pay Away Layaway is a national 501(c)3 non profit organization all volunteer organization which means most of the money goes directly to military families.
Adopt-a-Family for the Holidays
Numerous organizations offer adopt-a-family programs. Military families who can show proof of need submit their wish lists to the organization and donors adopt the families by purchasing items from their wish lists for Christmas. Because of the popularity of adopt-a-family programs, you must fill out an application months before Christmas in order to get on the list. Pay attention to deadlines and get your application in as soon as the window opens because spaces fill up fast.
Full Circle Home
Full Circle Home gives deployed servicemen a chance to send a gift box to their wives back home. Gift boxes contain pampering items, such as lotions, bubble baths and spa socks. They also feature a handwritten note from the serviceman.
Military Installation Support
The family centers at military installations offer assistance in many forms during the holidays including programs such as Santa’s Shop in which donations are taken for military families in need. Contact the local installation for how you can help. For assistance, reach out to the Family Readiness Group, Chaplain or MWR.
Operation Christmas Spirit supports local military families in the form of holiday gratitude by: “Adopting” over 100 families and fulfilling their Christmas wish lists with gifts for all family members and gift cards to do their own shopping; Sponsor gifts and crafts at unit holiday parties; “Adopt” single Marines and Sailors, giving them gifts and gifts cards to celebrate whether near or far from their families.
Operation Holiday Joy
Donate to Operation Holiday Joy. 100% of your donation goes to food and toys this holiday season and you can designate your donation to a specific program.
Operation Homefront offers many programs for military families throughout the year and Christmas is no exception. The organization partners with Dollar Tree to provide toys for
military children. To receive a gift, you must register for your local Operation Homefront Toy Distribution. If your family lacks the funds for a holiday meal, you can also attend one of the organization’s holiday meal events and receive all of the fixings for the perfect Christmas dinner.
The Red Cross provides many military family services including but not limited to financial assistance and deployment services.
Spirit of Sharing
The Adopt-A-Military Family program provides commissary cards, gifts, toys and much more to military families in need. How to help or how to get help.
Soldiers’ Angels sponsors Operation Outreach Holiday Support. Lower enlisted families can sign up to receive a $50-$100 gift card to help pay for a holiday meal and gifts for children ages 15 and under. Families must sign up for the program by December 15 and are matched with donors from around the United States.
Toys for Tots
The U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. The program is for all children, including military kids. Donate or request a toy.
Trees for Troops
Every family needs a Christmas tree and Tree for Troops, sponsored by the Christmas Spirit Foundation, offers free Christmas trees for military families. Trees are available at 62 bases throughout the United States.
Veterans Service Organizations
Many Veterans’ Service Organizations (American Legion, VFW, etc.) provide a wide variety of holiday support to service members, veterans, and their families. Program benefits often include meals, food , gift cards, and adopt-a-family, or adopt-a-veteran programs.
Local USO offices provide a variety of holiday assistance programs including holiday dinners, events with Santa, toy and food drives and much. Contact a local USO office.
Wreaths Across America
Donate to Wreaths Across America which coordinates wreath laying ceremonies on a specified Saturday in December at Arlington, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. They organize a week of events including international veteran’s tributes, ceremonies at State Houses and a week-long “Veteran’s Parade” between Maine and Virginia.
Additional Way to Support the Military this Holiday Season
Care packages, holiday cards and letters, thanking our veterans and military families are all ways we can provide additional support.
Enjoy the Holidays
Lets make this time of year count. Lets make this the year that we reduce the #22 a day. Just as all things, it takes a village, lets be that.
Also if you know of service members that may be in a financial bind or doest have a place to celebrate Christmas with someone please give them the above information.
Thinking back, I remember from the young age of 12, I knew that one day I would serve my country. But at the age of 44, I now find myself not knowing what happens after. Life, after my country?
Im pleased to say, I did that. I dd it for 24-years and 42-weeks. I served with honor, integrity and pride. I served 2- different dimensions; one dimensions as an non-commissioned officer and one dimension as a commissioned officer. I did both and for that I am proud.
Aside from normal childhood dreams of being an entertainer, I didn’t think beyond singing and the military. Granted, I grew up long before the days of American Idol or Americas Got Talent so having a “Joe Jackson” or “Matthew Knowles” wasn’t an option especially since I didn’t have an active participative father in my life, at all. I didn’t even have Youtube which has been known to produce a few discovered talents. Needless to say, life forced me to neglect my dream of becoming a famous singer in this lifetime. I see it as “taking the road less traveled”. Realistically less then 1% of the population will serve or will attempt to serve.
However, luckily for me, the Army didn’t have as many talent shows or auditions that were requirements in order to “win”. Ironically, some would say that I have won despite everything else.
But, 18-months post retirement, armed with 2-steady incomes, a MA in Marriage & Family Counseling, and several credentials, here I sit, wondering what do I do next. Im only 44. I have ideas about what to do, but the way in which to do it doesn’t come easy.
You see, the military was a barrier as well as a lot of other things. If you didn’t succeed, you tried and tried again. I mean, it wasn’t cookie cutter clear, but we were aware of what needed to be done or what not to do if we wanted to have a lengthy successful career.
If you want to get promoted, “go above and beyond your peers” or “go to school to get the points to make the cut-off scores” or “submit a packet for warrant officer or officer candidate school” or “smile pretty for the board”
If you wanted a short career; drugs, being overweight, not being physically fit, or showing no progression towards the next rank would give you almost 100% guarantee the you would be exiting “stage-left” without a round of applause.
When there weren’t roadmaps or charts to tell you how to succeed, then find a person similar to you in terms of race, close in rank, gender, military skill and either a) do better then them or b) do like them or c) make them your mentor!
By the way, they threw in medical, dental, tuition assistance, 30-vacation days a year, plus 4-day and someone to watch over you from time to time.
I know, I know, we sacrifice greatly, to receive these things. Of course, thats a bigger, longer, more extensive, blog post at a later date. You get the jeesch!.
But, I ask the questions?
Who am I?
Out here in the real world, which surrounds the outside of the military barriers, theres no schedule, no road map, no “what to do” versus “what NOT to do”, no one that aligns with me that I can emulate, nor is there a person that’s constantly around that HAVE to watch over me from time to time, even when I don’t want them to. I now realize, I miss that.
Its just me, all me and no one else but me.
Im not even sure what time is considered a decent time to wake in the morning that I don’t appear to be a lazy slug!
In my mind anything after 6am is considered late and sleeping in!
The more and more I poise these questions, the more and more I think of new questions to follow. I talk to others who’ve served; again more questions are left unanswered.
With all the questions I have, it leads me to the biggest 2-questions of all; HOW MANY OTHER VETERANS FEEL THE SAME”? and HOW DO WE LEARN TO LIVE STRUCTURED IN AN UNSTRUCTURED WORLD?