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Nearly Government Issue

Out There

Published online: Oct 11, 2023 Articles Gregg Losinski
Viewed 917 time(s)

I grew up when the Vietnam War was raging. I fully expected to be shipped off to war when I grew up and could only hope to make it back alive. That's why when cashiers ask me if I qualify for the military discount it always makes me think about those that did serve. I’m glad they ask because so many did decide to make that life-changing decision. A small discount is the least they deserve.

I was born just 15 years after the end of World War Two and 7 years after the end of the Korean War. The Vietnam War started before I was born and was escalating my entire childhood. Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia when I was eight and the IRA was blowing up bombs in England. When I was young, my father, who had served in the Korean War, was still in the Air National Guard. I remember how he used to violently shake from fever fits from the malaria he acquired during the war. Friends of his fighting in Vietnam used to visit us while on leave. In my mind, the idea that one must perform their duty in the military before being allowed to live a normal life was just a given.

At the time I didn’t realize that my perceptions were skewed by the fact that while I knew people who had fought as far back as WWII, I really didn’t know much personally about many people who had died during the wars. I knew lots of people had perished during the wars, both soldiers and civilians, but I fortunately had been spared personal exposure. My childhood was full of war-themed movies and television shows where only the faceless enemy died, not so much the valiant American GIs, and hopefully not me in the future.

I even felt the Boy Scouts was just my introduction to skills I would need in military service to survive. I had no idea as a child of the horrible and deep trauma that many of the survivors carried inside for the rest of their lives. It never really occurred to me that so many who had served were reluctant to talk about it. When Saigon fell, I was relieved. The draft ended and any military service would be voluntary.

The recent movie “Jojo Rabbit” struck me as a brilliant, dark-humored portrayal of how some children must perceive war. Even though the evening news used to report the body counts as routinely as baseball scores, I still dressed up as some type of soldier for Halloween all through elementary school. Back then toy machine guns, dummy hand grenades, and even real bayonets were allowed in school without anyone being expelled or triggering a lockdown.

We still have men and women in the military all around the globe trying to do what they think is right. The hard part is that war has simultaneously become both more personal and impersonal. Many conflicts lack an enemy that wears any type of uniform, so anyone is a possible threat. Drones have made it possible to be killed by something unseen and possibly operated by someone on the other side of the globe. 

Human nature is an incredibly complex thing, and right and wrong can be difficult to decipher when you start to peel back all the layers of the geopolitical onion. The magnitude of the destruction possible by our weaponry has certainly escalated over time, but the basic human emotions that are the drivers of everything have not changed.

As a child in school, I took part in the duck and cover nuclear bomb drills, something children in Ukraine do for real today. If only something as simple as a school desk could protect us from all the harm that is out there in the world. Hopefully, schools and families are helping to educate future generations to be able to work out problems without armed conflicts. Clearly, we still have a long way to go, and can’t give up. Maybe we can’t completely change our nature, but hopefully, we can temper it so that kids don’t grow up fearing or hoping to go to war.


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