How To Make Sense Of Military Service In A Culture That No Longer Understands It

How To Make Sense Of Military Service In A Culture That No Longer Understands It By  for The Federalist

Scott Beauchamp’s recent essay collection, ‘Did You Kill Anyone?’ attempts to reconcile the experience of soldiers in a culture that no longer understands the value and values of military service.

A couple years ago, I took a red-eye flight from Washington Dulles International Airport to London. Standing in line to board, I suddenly spied one of our nation’s most notorious military leaders, David Petraeus. “King David,” as he was known during his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, curiously walked up to an empty kiosk not far from the gate where we were boarding for London.

Within less than a minute, an attendant appeared and started checking him in, ostensibly for our flight. Special service for the former commander, I thought. “Look,” I exclaimed to those nearest to me in line. “It’s David Petraeus!” Within minutes, everyone was pointing at him, commenting on his presence, and taking pictures of him on their iPhones. “How did you recognize him so quickly?” asked the woman behind me. “Because I’ve briefed him,” I replied, with a smile.

Indeed, during my first and second tours in Afghanistan, I had helped assemble briefings personally directed to him. That might lead readers to wonder why I would be so willing to embarrass a man under whom I had once served. The answer is simple.

While we were working our rear ends off enabling him and his staff to make decisions to further our nation’s strategic objectives and save American lives on the battlefield, he was sleeping with his biographer, U.S. Army reservist Paula Broadwell. Apparently during or after that fling, Broadwell got access to classified documents from Petraeus, or, as we began calling him, “General Betray-us.”

For those of us who worked for him, it felt like a betrayal, not just of U.S. military regulations regarding sexual relations, but of everyone serving in Afghanistan. That the affair didn’t come to light until Broadwell started harassing another woman was all the more damning. I suppose “King David” was an apt nom-de-guerre, and not just because of Petraeus’ military brilliance.

I thought of that anecdote while reading the chapter on honor in Scott Beauchamp’s recent book Did You Kill Anyone?: Reunderstanding My Military Experience as a Critique of Modern Culture. The series of essays are inspired by Beauchamp’s service in the U.S. Army.

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