The Devil's Due

In 2001, life in America as we knew it changed in a matter of a few hours. The legacy our past generations built was not only challenged but attacked. The military changed that day, unbeknownst to them at the time, so utterly completely that today that the military today is nearly unrecognizable.

Check that.

The leaders who took us to war are nearly unrecognizable.

The amazing notion to me is that a movie like American Sniper can take place largely in a country so far away and yet strike so perfectly at our own front doors. There were moments in the two-plus hour movie that seem somewhat deja vu to me and other moments that confirmed my deepest, darkest fears... things we'd never speak of for fear that to do so would give them a name. On one hand, I'm thrilled outsiders will finally see a tiny glimpse into what twelve, long years of constant war have been like for all of us. And on another, I'm angry that things we'd all kept hidden away in tiny, secret corners of our emotional closets have how been dragged out, and the dust has been kicked off for the whole world to see and marvel. Some of us are ready, others are not. But, here we are.

In the years since the wars began to wane, the support our leaders have provided has been infinitesimal at best. Confusing and dishonest at worst. We see our elected leaders jockeying for position on cutting our benefits, our earned compensations, our retirements and our pay. They say, "We need to modernize" and "We need to do what's best for the nation." Finally, "We can't afford this military, we need to do more with less." They talk about the sustainability of an all-volunteer service, the future of a national defense, the affordability of a ready-military. It always circles back to the same enemy territory: Cut the military pay and benefits.

What is often left out of their financial algorithm is a quotient for future loss and payments still due. Due from service members.

You see, my fellow Americans, while some of us have retired and joined the "real world", others of us have just left after "time served" and still more remain on active duty or reserve, what is lost is still coming due for all of us. And, it's coming fast and hard, and we're facing it without our electric fence of protection. We will be drinking from the proverbial fire hose of war for the rest our lives whether we still serve or not, whether we are at war or not. For all time.

What we lose is so much more than just time with our families, special occasions, births of our babies and first steps in exchange for a paycheck and benefits. Those moments seem irrelevant and insignificant when placed alongside things like: we won't ever sleep peacefully again, our dreams are littered with bodies and deeds we've been required to do, our lives are a constant reminder of consequence; consequence of the actions requested by our nation, consequence of battlefield decisions and ultimatums we will never be able to outrun, undo, change or live down. What's done is done and the Devil has come for his due. And, he'll come again and again. For all time.

He'll come at night when we wake with hands around our spouses necks because a baby cried, he'll come when a dog seems to attack a child at a backyard barbecue with only kisses and sweet puppy licks, he'll come in our minds as events from a sand land so far away are replayed over and over in the television of our minds. He'll come when paranoia sneaks in and won't provide a place to find peace from the past. He'll come when we close our eyes to see the bloody, terrified faces of the fallen and he'll come when we open them to see our comrades in pieces, missing their arms, their legs or their faces. He'll come in the form of a suicide every 65 minutes of every single day for all time. And, he'll come for us whether we, or you, like it or not. The debt is due.

We the military will pay the Devil's due for all time.

What has been done will require payment from us with our minds, our bodies and our future lives. For all time.

So, when I talk about the quotient left out of a fancy math algorithm that determines national affordability for a nation at war, the things they don't account for are the payments still due on that tab. And, I don't mean a loan whose interest we cannot afford or payments due to contractors we'll never pay. I mean, we still owe the military that fought -- and still continues to fight -- for our nation. The nation still owes the military for the payments they still need to make to our service members.

Payments on the revolving credit they took out of us. Out of our bodies, our minds and our souls.

In deference to the impending arrival of the MCRMC's recommendations, I want to be absolutely crystal clear: You -- our leaders, are expected and legally required to honor your word. You will protect us and our earned compensations, our benefits and our pay. You will keep your word. We will see to it. You will do your part to ensure and preserve our futures to the very best of your abilities for all time.

You will find no sympathetic ears in us for your lack of leadership in these wars or funding issues after the fact. We can't hear you anymore, and we won't. The ringing in our ears from IEDs and gunfire won't allow it. You will find no support from us to fund your side projects and pet programs. We can't see you anymore because there is simply just no intellectual or emotional capital left for us to give you.

You will keep your promise. For all time.

Because if you don't, maybe... just maybe, we'll all just leave our guns and our little, blue Bibles in the dirt.