The government has launched an ambitious new program aimed at putting veterans to work using the skills they’ve already learned and developed over their years in the military. Not the U.S. government. The Australian government. In fact, they’re looking for a few good American men and women who have already served in the U.S. military to come and serve in theirs.
In a down economy, where service members’ skills are not in high demand and the unemployment rate for veterans is much higher than for the populace at large, are veterans willing to use their skills and put their lives on the line for another country? If so, does that make them mercenaries? Or are we to forgive a soldier for opportunism, especially when his or her own country can’t guarantee them an economic situation where they can support their family?
On the one hand, it’s not an altogether strange proposition: President Obama recently stationed 2,500 Marines in Australia, and service members from all of the branches are used to moving halfway across the world when ordered to do so. American service members are used to far-flung travels and long years away from the States. Australia speaks English, although there are hundreds of different cultural words and phrases that would take some learning. And Australia has been a staunch ally in the global war on terror, as well as in our struggle in Iraq. If they’re in the business of building up their military, and America’s in the business of drawing down, it’s not as if the Soviet Union is offering us a job – Australia’s pretty close to America in terms of values and culture.
On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if I could ever put on the uniform of another American branch of service, much less that of another country. With due respect to all of y’all, nothing looks as good as the Marine Corps’ dress blues.
Here’s the long and short of it, though: The truth is that American service members are putting their lives on the line for people of other nations every single day. We maintain a strong posture in South Korea to protect Seoul and the Korean people from the madmen in Pyongyang. We only recently left Iraq, where we spent five years protecting the civilian populace. We have been protecting Afghan civilians for more than a decade, now. Slowly, we are becoming more embroiled in the safety and stability of people who live in eastern Africa. American men and women have not only made the ultimate sacrifice for America; they have died protecting Sunni and Shiite Iraqis, Kurds, Turkmen, Pashtuns, Hazara, Uzbeks, Tajiks and hundreds of other peoples throughout history.
The difference here? You wear an Australian uniform instead of an American uniform. That could be enough to have service members here who are nervous about the prospect of returning to the civilian world (especially if the 15-year retirement is approved) saying “Very well then: Down Under.”
(image credit: blackfive.com)