Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Armies, Part 3: The Relational Army

When old soldiers finally retire from the field, many of them still long for the camaraderie and sense of belonging they had when they were on the front lines. Moreover, the structures and traditions of their unit gave their lives order even as their unit’s mission gave them a purpose for getting up each morning. So a lot of old soldiers eventually find their way into membership into some kind of quasi-military organization like the local V.F.W. post. At the V.F.W., they can celebrate the glory of past victories, lament old friends that passed on, and maintain and build friendships with like-minded men. It may be that the hat is all that now fits of their old uniform, but they wear it proudly (as indeed they should!), and some semblance of the old institutional structures (rank, branch of service, etc.) are maintained, even though they are no longer an active part of it. The mission of this kind of army isn’t really army-like anymore though. It has changed from engaging the Enemy and freeing those oppressed by him to simply the maintenance and building of relationships. It has, in short, become a social club for those with similar experiences and shared love of the same institutions. But even though many of these people could be effective soldiers again should the need arise, that’s not why they are gathered, and so the need never seems to arise again.

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