I would never think to tell anyone that I come from a military family, though both my parents, my grandpas, and my brother all served at some point. I’m the only non-veteran in my immediate family. I interned at a defense contractor for a summer, but that’s about as close as I’ve been to the military industrial complex. My parents were out of the Air Force by the time I was born, so I didn’t experience a military brat childhood, so I think that’s part of it. Though I didn’t live through that lifestyle, I can’t say that the American military hasn’t had an enormous impact on my life.
My parents first met on a military airplane going to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. My paternal grandpa met my Grandma while he was a Navy Seabee in Southern California in the 1950s, and my maternal grandpa met my grandma when he was stationed in Japan in the 1950s. So, if it weren’t for the military I wouldn’t exist (two generations over).
None of my military family were lifers – if anything it seems like the military can be something you do because you need a job, because you want to get out of the small rural town you grew up in, because it’s a direction to go in other than college – basically, the military is a source of opportunity and possibility. I can’t speak for anyone, but that’s what it looks like from my outsider perspective. I respect the individual contributions of veterans and I appreciate what the military offers to our increasingly degree obsessed American society.
I’m pretty much an academic, with all the voodoo mojo jargon writing that goes along with it, and I professionally serve a very ivory tower community. I don’t discount the value of the academy, but I do get frustrated at elitism and exclusivity and find that contemporary American society’s privileging of excessive credentials is fueling an educational industrial complex.
I don’t believe in intellectual elitism, but I’m unfortunately starting another masters degree in January, and I still haven’t discounted the possibility of eventually going back for a PhD of the history variety. I’ve already got enough degrees and educational certificates to wipe an ass after a pretty sizable dump. So I’m a bit of a hypocrite, but I’m also in a place in my career where I don’t feel like I have the power yet to change the system and I think having an arsenal of letters after my name will help. You have to fully understand the system to affect lasting change (=how I sleep at night).
Enough ranting – in belated celebration of the contributions of veterans past and present, here is a gallery of my maternal grandpa Donald Hickman’s photographs from his Navy Seabee time in the Philippines in the 1950s, complete with captions he handwrote on the backs (where applicable):