Between Honorable & Dishonorable: How Veterans Pass Through Hell To Get To Limbo

By Jay Kirell

 

Luis was a small, cocky kid from Boston.  He joined the Army in mid-2009 right out of high school.

Danny was built like a NFL middle linebacker. He joined the same time Luis did.  He was from Maine and liked to draw.

Michael was fat, mischievous and grew up 10 miles from the post in Kentucky he ended up stationed at.

Robert was an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, who joined to get his citizenship.

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Six Things Veterans Should Realize Before They Run For Public Office

 

By Jay Kirell

 

It’s that time of the year again – election season.  Well, not really, but since we live in a 24/7 news cycle, being over a half a year away from the mid-term elections constitutes being ‘within’ a season.

Right now candidates across the country are vying for their party’s nomination in primaries, or have already secured the nomination to run against entrenched incumbents.

Many of these candidates come from legal or financial backgrounds.  Some are lower-level politicians looking to rise up the ranks and some are political neophytes recruited by the local Democratic or Republican parties to run in races nobody else wanted to bother with.

Included amongst those political neophytes are military veterans, many of whom are stepping quickly out of participation in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and into the partisan battles waged here at home.  Veterans have served this country in all levels of politics since the founding of the nation, and while the percentage of vets in Congress has shrunk over the years, new veterans are running at record numbers for higher office.

But many more run than win, and while many service-members may leave the armed forces with hopes of being elected to public office one day, there are a few things they should consider before throwing their hat into the ring.

Namely:

 

1. Thanking you for your service is not the same thing as supporting your campaign

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The Nine Arguments Against Women in Combat… & Why They’re Bullshit

 

By Jay Kirell

 

If there was a formal poll of all members of the military, veterans and others who make their living in and around those who serve this nation, I’m sure that my views on most issues would be an outlier.  While I don’t consider myself the most progressive or liberal person in the world, by military standards, I’d be considered two steps to the left of Mao.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that my views on women in combat would fall somewhere outside the normal range of most military personnel – views that range from “heck no, women should never be in combat” to “hell no, women should never be in combat.”

There are many reasons people oppose putting women in combat arms positions in the military.  Some of those reasons may appear to be sound and logical. Other reasons might appear to be based more on emotion and fear, but happen to be buttressed by testimony from those who served, giving credibility to opinions that otherwise might be dismissed.

I’ve read and heard and debated all the arguments.  Without bragging, I believe the time I spent in combat gives me as much credibility on the issue as anyone else.  The only evidence I lack in presenting my case is actual experience alongside women in a combat situation - but then again, that is experience most do not have, including those who champion keeping the combat arms segregated.

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How A 90% Disabled Veteran Is Too Rich For Food Stamps

 

By Jay Kirell

 

Some of you might remember a few months ago I wrote a little essay about being a veteran on food stamps.  Most likely, it’s the reason you read this blog at all, since a majority of this blog’s traffic was generated from that once-viral story.

Well, it’s with an awkward reluctance that I’m here to say I’ll no longer be a 35-year-old white male combat veteran on food stamps come May.

Not because I won the lottery.

Not because I found a job

Not because my wife suddenly recovered from her Celiac disease, back surgery and recent lupus-diagnosis and found employment.

No, I found out via a letter from the local district office handling my case that my recertification for benefits was declined because I was currently making too much money to qualify.

Which was news to me, as I don’t particularly feel wealthy.

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Extremist Views Go To War, They Don’t Come From Them

 

By Jay Kirell

Today’s New York Times Op-Ed section had a rather controversial opinion piece by Kathleen Belew on the history of white supremacists and the Army.  In it, Belew writes about the shooting in Kansas by Frazier Glenn Miller, a noted white power advocate and veteran, who killed three people on Sunday:

“Mr. Miller obviously represents an extreme, both in his politics and in his violence. A vast majority of veterans are neither violent nor mentally ill. When they turn violent, they often harm themselves, by committing suicide. But it would be irresponsible to overlook the high rates of combat trauma among the 2.4 million Americans who have served in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the full impact of which has not yet materialized. Veterans of those conflicts represent just 10 percent of those getting mental health services through the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the overwhelming majority of those in treatment are still Vietnam veterans.”

This is an interesting piece, if only because the author makes a few interesting points about the history of the white power movement in America and how its members are oftentimes made up, partly, of military veterans.  Where the author fails though, is in connecting the combat these veterans faced and the surrounding trauma, as somehow being a linchpin for otherwise noble veterans to fall prey to extremist groups.

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Why The WWE Paying Tribute To “Warrior” Is The “Ultimate” Insult

 

By Jay Kirell

Recently two things occurred in the world of professional wrestling that shook its fans to the very core.  First, the performer known as The Undertaker (real name Mark Calloway) lost for the first time at the WWE’s flagship pay-per-view event – WrestleMania.  An outcome even the most tuned-in wrestling fans never saw coming.

The second was the death of performer famously known to many as the Ultimate Warrior (birth name James Hellwig and legal name – seriously – Warrior) one night after appearing on the WWE’s highly-watched Monday Night RAW television show.  Warrior died last Tuesday outside of a hotel in Arizona at the age of 54.

As news of his death quickly spread, thoughts and condolences poured in from fellow wrestlers and fans, thanking him for his years of entertainment and joy he brought to them.

A few days later, word started circling that the WWE would be honoring the Ultimate Warrior with a special tribute episode of its Monday night program.  “Tributes” in pro wrestling terms, can mean different things depending on the level of popularity a performer attained in his career.

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10 Things About The Army You Learn The Hard Way

By Jay Kirell

If the old expression, “I wish I knew then what I know now” applies to anything in my life, it’s my three and a half years in the Army.  Between January, 2010 and May, 2013 I got many lessons on military culture and how soldiers live and interact with each other.  Some lessons can be taught from a book, but the best lessons are often learned the hard way.

For those thinking of joining the military, or just those curious, these are 10 of those lessons:

 

10.  Your stuff will get stolen. 

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Fort Hood Shooting Reveals Yet Another Problem The Army Will Eventually Not Get Around To

 

By Jay Kirell

 

I can remember clearly the first time I saw it.

It was a few weeks after graduating basic training.  I had just arrived at my first duty station.  Out in the mid-south, or whatever you call the Kentucky-Tennessee border, my duty station had a few small-to-mid size towns where mostly soldiers, veterans and civilians who made their living selling stuff to veterans and soldiers resided.

The main street that stretched across the border, right up along the entrance gates to the military post, was a collection of mostly three establishments: fast food places, payday loan offices and gun shops.

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