To those of you who support us in the military, let me preface by saying this: THANK YOU. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. It is such an amazing experience to serve in the military, but when I wear my uniform in public, it is especially humbling when people walk up to me and either hug me or shake my hand and thank me for serving. It doesn’t happen constantly because I don’t try to wear my uniform in public much (aside from working on military bases), but when it does, it always catches me off guard and very pleasantly. I know many of you are out there and I’m man enough to admit that it sometimes almost brings me to tears. I really do appreciate it.
By now, we all know that singer David Bowie passed away a few days ago. Now when I first saw the news, my first reaction was, “Damn. I didn’t even know he had cancer. Wow.”
Needless to say, I’ve seen a generous outpouring of support, condolences and obviously, extreme sadness. As for me, I was saddened by it also. Not so much because of who he is because I’ll admit; I know of him mainly because of one song I have on my iPhone (“Let’s Dance”), but other than that, I really haven’t followed him much and I haven’t heard much of his music. However, that doesn’t make the news of him passing away any less sad.
Don’t get me wrong; obviously some deaths will hit us harder than others and that’s everyone. No one is going to express an equal amount of sadness over every single death they hear about. What I mean by this is that even though I hadn’t listened to much of his music, hearing about any death is sad to me still. For some people, death is just an inevitable part of life and they’ve gotten used to it. I’m never going to allow myself to feel that way. Death is something you can never come back from. This is what I think about when anyone passes away.
Those of you who are extreme David Bowie supporters, no, I’m not trying to kiss up to any of you. That’s not the point of this. I would say the same about any other celebrity, but with this happening, it has brought something to mind which I’ve noticed often happens, especially on social media when a celebrity passes away.
I haven’t seen it yet from anyone on David Bowie, but I’m sure it’s coming. It will be something to the effect of “If you know that this person died (a picture of Bowie or said celebrity), but don’t know that this soldier/ these soldiers died (next to their pictures) then you are what’s wrong with the country,” or any variation of that.
For those who feel that way, I as a soldier with 18+ years in the Army would like to ask you to please do me a favor: Stop.
Again, my appreciation for those of you who support us is immense. But I really don’t think it’s fair to minimize a celebrity’s death or hell, anyone’s death, just because of ours.
Some may see that as disrespecting our service members. Absolutely not. I have a great deal of respect and even greater sadness, because these are my fellow brothers and sisters who are leaving us and in many cases, WAY TOO SOON. However, it’s the comparison that I have the issue with.
People become celebrities because their exposure is at a premium. That’s just the way it is. I don’t believe it has much to do with their personalities and all that. They’re on television and movies, something just about all of us watch and on a constant basis.
Service members, on the other hand, really don’t get much exposure. We’re out here and doing a job that doesn’t attract the cameras, we don’t get a ton of fan support, and we’re not in a career whose sole purpose is to entertain others. So it should be no surprise that people know celebrities more than they do us. I don’t feel that is disrespectful to us in any way.
Not to mention, most of the time, celebrities are known as individuals. We as soldiers are not. That’s how many of them become famous. When you watch a television show or a movie, you watch for the actor or actress. When you view a professional sporting event, it’s for that athlete or maybe you’re eyeing a handful of them.
However, when the military is brought up in conversations, most of the time, unless someone has done something wildly heroic, we’re grouped together as a whole. Again, that’s just the way it is. It’s not someone deliberately saying “The hell with the military!” Not at all.
I don’t care much for comparisons in general because many times, we compare things or people who can co-exist. In other words, let’s take professional sports as one example. As a fan myself, I obviously know that comparisons are necessary there because everyone competes to be the best and of course, there can only be one ultimate champion. So I understand it there.
However, why do we have to line up a celebrity’s death with a soldier’s death? Can we not appreciate and respect them both? I get that just because we hear more about Bowie than soldiers, it feels as if the country is slighting us, but again, that’s just the way it is as far as celebrity status goes. I really don’t think we should take it personally.
On top of that, I know a lot of celebrities who appreciate what we do in the military and thank us often. I’ve deployed three times and celebrities are always coming overseas to spend time with us. They love us in many cases just as much as we love them. So it isn’t like there isn’t a great deal of mutual respect.
Then let’s face it; most of us IN the military give these celebrities the very attention that we are later complaining about them receiving. That’s not entirely fair, is it? As soldiers, we still watch television. We still watch movies. We still attend professional sporting events. We can still admire folks in those positions and again, many of us do.
The comparing really isn’t necessary because as I said above, we all can co-exist. There’s room for everyone. I’ve heard and seen celebrities MANY times thank us for “giving them the freedom to do what they do every day.” Along with that, when we’re done doing what we do, we come home (or to our living area if we’re in a combat zone), we watch our favorite celebrities on television or DVD and we unwind. So it’s basically as if we’re figuratively “high-fiving” each other.
So why do we need to try elevate one above the other? We all do different jobs that mean different things to different people at different times.
Some may say that entertainment “isn’t important.” Oh, I grossly beg to differ. Back to Mr. Bowie, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to “Let’s Dance” as I’m working out or out on a run. I mean, really…how many of us don’t like music? Don’t answer all at once.
If you truly believe that something like music, television, movies or professional sports isn’t important, then remove that aspect from your lives and tell me how that would go.
Now let’s use some common sense here. If you aren’t a fan of professional sports, then you’re already living without it, so there’s no need to imagine that one. I’m talking about something you are a fan of. I’m willing to bet that those who say entertainment isn’t important are very much like me and listen to music A LOT when exercising. I’m a writer and I always have music on when I’m in front of my laptop. Hell, I’m listening to music right now. Folks watch television and movies very often. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But I’ve seen how some people are when they can’t watch their favorite show, can’t catch a game, or lose a playlist from their phones. They go crazy.
Trust me; I DO get the concept of why people feel that us in the military should receive more attention than a celebrity, especially when one passes away. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. A celebrity by nature has more “direct” impact than we do and simply put, that is why they garner the attention they’re able to.
The reason this does not bother me is because I understand that. Again, it’s not something that should be taken personally. In other words, loving David Bowie does not mean a person dislikes or even disrespects the military. It should never be looked at that way.
Another reason is that celebrities are very verbal and active during their exposure; they often say and do a lot and when they do, especially when it’s something of substance or controversy, we remember that and we don’t often forget the person attached to the statement(s) or act(s). Simply put; many are remembered for the things they’ve said or done and again, more specifically because they’re viewed as individuals. We in the military are not.
So, once again…I absolutely love those of you who respect and appreciate what we do in the military. I can never express that enough. However, let’s be fair and respectful to celebrities as well, especially when they pass away.
People are inspired for different reasons and positively touched in many different ways. It’s not fair to imply that a person is “wrong” because they spoke so much about David Bowie or whatever other celebrity and they didn’t give the same attention to the military following any of our deaths. Much of what we do, at this point in history, really does not reach people in the same manner. That’s really all there is to it. We don’t need to force the issue. I’m more than happy with being told that we are appreciated. I don’t need direct appreciation or a million messages of sorrow when a military death happens to feel that you care about us. I believe many do.
It’s just that I feel that despite all this and that, David Bowie, like any other celebrity, was a person FIRST. Yes, his career has allowed him to be exposed in an enormous manner, but he was still a person who deserves to be mourned by people in the way they see fit, without there being a feeling that we in the military are being disrespected.
In short (too late for that now), we really just have to stop putting one group or person down in order to elevate another. Period.