My military service—and the service of those around me—wasn’t anything special.
I didn’t serve in some elite black ops unit. I spent a relatively short amount of time in-country. And my deployments were, on the whole, both very, very boring.
That mundanity is precisely why it was important that I wrote about it. While our culture is quick to celebrate war heroes—those figures who meet extreme circumstances and rise above them, or endure in the face of incredible hardship—of less note and renown is the typical soldier, the average grunt, or the lowly Joe just doing his job.
Societies have always celebrated their heroes—those who do more, those who achieve more. That’s great. But if we only focus on the stories that are propaganda worthy, we lose something of ourselves. The average person who serves in war has a story to tell, and that story is important. It’s important precisely because so many can relate to it.
In Flight of the Blue Falcon, I describe a lot of the soldier’s day-to-day activities. It’s mundane, sure, but it’s also important. It’s funny. It’s surreal. It’s bizarre. It’s frustrating. Not everyone serves in the military or in a time of war, but everyone has a job that they hate, at one time or another. They have a boss that drives them nuts. They experience hardship, misunderstanding, alienation. They find their dreams slipping away. Their relationships fraying. Their self-respect taking a hit.
Everyone can relate to those things.
Military service—real, rough, dangerous service—brings these moments and periods of self-reflection and doubt to a whole new level. Good military novels are essentially books about the American workplace, the American dream, writ large against tragic circumstances, with high-stakes moments that go well beyond the typical. And yet, if you’ve ever spent any amount of time with line soldiers, you realize that they are typical. They are just regular folks, trudging through the day to day of their lives, their jobs. Even if you’ve never served, you’ll see yourself in them. You’ll see your friends, your family, your co-workers in the faces and stories of these men and women in uniform.
That is precisely why, not in spite of but because of the mundanity of military service, we should tell our stories. Our stories of being bored, of being hopeful, of being challenged with loss and even death. The experience of the average is valuable, because in the average, we can see ourselves. We can be connected with one another, even across cultures, time, and experience.