By Jay Kirell
On the battlefield I was a pawn.
I was moved from one spot to another, ordered to stand, kneel, lay down.
My movements were controlled. My actions dictated by others.
Most of those who go off to war are pawns.
As are those who come back.
The pawns come home from war, broken in one way or another. Their nation celebrates their valor once a year. They get a pat on the back and a rote “thank you for your service.” Words that ring in the pawn’s ears like a Pavlovian bell, designed to be reciprocated with a meek “thank you, sir/ma’am.”
And then for the other 364 days of the year the pawn is forgotten.
Until something happens to a soldier or veteran that happens to make national news, then the pawn resumes his purpose.
To be used. To be maneuvered. To be manipulated.
Whether its an act of violence committed by an individual, or an act of deception committed by a face-less institution, ultimately the pawns have to emerge and be set into place.
What does X say about how 13 years of war have left our veterans? What does Y tell us about how we care for them?
And most importantly, how can Z be best used for political gain?
Because the stories that feature veterans that make the national news are rarely stories about veterans alone, but rather what political issue can best be exploited through them. Basically, it comes down to what position we’re needed in.
Since so many in the media today lack a personal connection to the military, every story about violence committed by a veteran is treated as a story of PTSD, or a story about gun control, instead of a story about guy who happened to be a veteran. The pawn gets moved to the position of threat.
A story about a VA hospital that forged paperwork to hide wait times and possibly deaths becomes a debate over socialized medicine and government efficiency and management in the upper levels of the VA instead of a story about an obviously understaffed-and-overbooked hospital and its unethical management. The pawn gets moved to the position of victim.
Because if there’s political hay to be made, someone will make it – even if they have to exploit veterans in the process. Politicians will call for new laws, or for heads to roll, the media will eventually ask why there are no new laws and why heads aren’t rolling, and say the poor veterans deserve better.
All the while the pawns will be pushed to their spot to be showered with either pity, praise or promises of action.
And in an election year, the promises will be flowing like wine.
Enjoy the attention, fellow pawns. It’s only a matter of time until we get moved to the back of the game board.