I know I've already made one plug for CBS's Television drama "The Unit," but here I go again. I have to watch this show alone because I find myself tearing up so many times through the course of an hour you'd think I'd been subjected to 12 straight hours of Extreme Makeover Home Edition. The story lines are both powerful and realistic covering not just the shoot-em-up-bang-bang aspect of the soldiers themselves, but also an equal dedication to the lives of the wives at home as they deal with their own issues most of which are unrelated to what their husbands are involved in. Over the course of the last two weeks' the soldiers and their families have had to deal with the unexpected death of one of there own killed in action during a mission in the Middle East.

The plot covers the subject from a number of different angles running the gambit of the expected such as the girlfriend left behind and the bewildered parents of the slain soldier, to the far more complex points of view of the NSA (National Security Agency) officer trying to keep a lid on the operation in order to preserve the President's Middle East initiatives, and the rescued, liberal journalist who, motivated by his sympathy for the people of Beirut and journalistic integrity, intends to "out" the otherwise secret mission conducted by the US on his behalf. As if these weren't enough to expound on, the plot even brings awareness to the very real stress currently placed on local chaplains trying to keep up with the numerous amount of memorial services required for the casualties of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course the point of view that gets the most attention is that of the fallen warrior's brothers-in-arms. The emotional impact is obvious, but unstated. Credit the writers and actors for not falling into the cliches of fist pounding and the "Dear-God-why-not-me-instead-of-him?" cry. Instead, the reaction could be felt only in their eyes - and not those long-contemplative stairs either, just simple and well-timed glances. Along with the glances was the team's resolve in completing their mission with an even greater level of composure and professionalism than before. In the face of this great personal tragedy, the members of the team instinctively understood the best way to honor their brother's death was to make sure it wasn't a wasted.

It's been said many times, but soldiers really don't fight for their country, they fight for the soldier next to them. The tougher the fight the stronger the bond. The stronger the bond the greater the degree of honor that exists. Honor... it's a horribly mangled concept these days or so it seems anyway. It's cliche to even discuss it, which only highlights our society's attitude toward the concept. Ironically, we downplay it's validity, but yet we harbor a deep respect for those that display a high degree of honor in their actions. Moments such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina bring stories of honor and heroics to the forefront of our conscience and we applaud these heralded exploits. Over time, however, these stories dissipate like wisps of smoke from the rubble as complacency and cynicism fill the air once again as we fixate on acts of depravity instead.

I am a firm believer that for even the most cynical of hearts, people sincerely want to believe in the higher concepts of our humanity such as honor and integrity, yet they continually look for opportunities to discredit these concepts in daily occurrences. Why do they want to disappoint themselves? One reason is that by discrediting acts of honor they also lower the bar for their own actions, thus giving themselves an out when they act dishonorably themselves.

I also think that people consider honor and morality the same thing and because they don't consider themselves moral (or moral in relation to someone like, say, the Pope, or Mother Teresa) then holding themselves to acting honorably is out the window too. The two concepts are closely tied together for sure, but I would propose that they are not necessarily the same thing. That may sound controvercial, but rather than get too deep into this point I would tell you to go get your "situational ethics ball cap" on and watch the last two episodes of "The Unit." As you're watching it count the number of occasions when a complex moral decision had to be made (and made fast). What did the team do? Was it right or wrong? Was it is justified? At the end do you still think they are honorable men? Keep in mind one fact though. These men are tools asked to do work by a less-than-honorable government (only adding to the complexity), meaning their honor will even be tested by the very entity that is responsible for them.

I wonder sometimes if people get discouraged by examples of honor in that they don't feel they have it inside themselves to make those same honorable choices and so why even try? I'll admit I've felt this to an extent. My dream from boyhood was to be a soldier of the highest caliber. One that operated by a code of honor and professionalism required to deal with extreme situations, but it was not to be. When I gave up those dreams there was this feeling that my ability to be honorable had been robbed. I would instead be working for some company doing what I had to feed the greedy monster known as Corporate America. There was no honor in this and there was no allegiance by the people that worked with you. This played out a number of times in my career as I was stabbed in the back, bad-mouthed and discredited despite my many contributions to the company's success. In my mind it almost seemed like a waste of myself to act honorably in an environment that only paid feeble lip service to the concept. Yet, in spite of my thoughts I still did what was asked of me. I made my share of mistakes and didn't always make the right choices, but overall, I tried to act as honorably as I could even if I wasn't willing to admit that I was doing so.

As I have matured my view has changed. You either choose to be honorable or you choose not to. Recent events in my life have confirmed this for me. In the last few weeks I started one job and then had the opportunity for a better one present itself. With the newer job I was one of three candidates narrowed down from over 300 applicants and the only one from outside the company. The remaining interview process required to select from amongst the three of us was the most thorough I have ever been through, but in the end I was offered the position. When the offer was made I was told that management was actually looking for a reason not to hire me and went to great lengths to do so, calling over fifteen people that I had worked with or for that were not on my references sheet. They requested obscure documentation from me, conducted back ground checks and drug test and in the end in their words, "they couldn't find a chink in my armor." The more they dug they less they found. As it turns out it was my honorable reputation that got me the job that by all rights would have gone to the internal candidates.

In the other instance I received a call from my ex-wife. Anyone that is close to me knows the level of friendliness that exists between us (think Israel and the other guys nearby). I don't say that to be mean to her but rather to underscore the impact of what she called to tell me. "Thank you." That's what she said. "Thank you for keeping up with the child support and health care without missing a payment during the entire time you weren't working." (6 months to be exact). I was stunned that she appreciated or even acknowledged the fact at all. It would have been easy on my part to chintz out of making the payments. In fact I came across a whole organization that helps fathers reduce or eliminate child support, but as I read their material I got an increasingly uncomfortable feeling over the methods in which they utilized to "help" fathers out. Additionally, it didn't feel right to withhold money that directly impacts the welfare of my boys. As a father one of my biggest responsibilities is to provide for my family, not look for ways to cheat them by cheating the system. But greater than providing for them is the responsibility I have to teach them how to be honorable men themselves one day. I may not be a daily influence in their lives. Something I struggle with constantly, but at least their mother won't have to say that their dad is a dead-beat.

I'm not telling these stories because I want everyone to say what a swell guy I am, (and please do not leave any comments to those effect either - being honorable should be something we should expect in others and demand of ourselves). I say all of this as an admission that I mistakenly believed that I needed to be part of a covert special ops unit in order to live a life of honor, but I have been humbled in the realization that honor is an everyday trait irregardless of the extremity of circumstances. It's something that defines us in the eyes of others and it's the most critical when we don't think anyone (like old bosses and ex-wives) sees it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Ads Section

Ads Section

  © Blogger templates Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP