This is the third post in an indefinite series. Everyone knows that 9/11 was the horrible mechanism that initiated our descent into a war fought by a small subset of Americans. But how well do you know the men and women who have joined the fight? Do you imagine they are wildly different from you? While 9/11 ties veterans together on a thin connective string, many more reasons drove us to join this war, and those are the ones that tie us to you. You can look in the mirror and know that a few sliding doors could have found you leaving home to wander off to the edges of the world with us. And you can see that these reasons are exactly what will help us inform a version of America we’ll all share together. These are stories about why we left to fight, and why you know us better than you think you do.
These are Kasey Pipitt’s Other Reasons.
It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’ve come to realize my reasons for joining the military were grounded in selfishness, not selflessness. I didn’t enlist for vengeance, the constitution, god or country. Forgive me for not believing that our nation was in danger of being invaded by a few Saudi funded radicals to a point where I thought our freedom was in jeopardy. No, I enlisted because I was young, pissed off, and didn’t want to go to college. The average 9-5 job was making me miserable. Living with my parents was definitely not something I wanted to continue doing. School was never my forte. Twelve years of that was more than enough time to figure that out about myself. I’d been watching a war on TV for six years and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be put in dangerous situations to find out what I was made of, situations I wouldn’t have been able to define as morally right or wrong. Scenarios that would force me to reevaluate my own self-perception. Fortunately, I was at the right age in a time of conflict to be able to fulfill these desires. Maybe I’m fucked up for that. Maybe a little crazy. But in my mind, that was the only way I would ever find out who I am. I wanted a real test, and I got one.
Of course, my naïve eighteen year old brain didn’t approach that kind of mindfulness. Not knowing who I was at the time, I naturally gravitated towards default patriotic motives when asked why I was joining. I tried to convince myself that the time I spent training and deploying was for good ole Uncle Sam and the vengeance of the United States. That everything we were doing was for the greater good of those at home. That it was all for old fashioned American freedom! WOO! (cracks open light beer). In retrospect, I don’t need the the veil of patriotism and freedom to justify my time in service, and I understand that it took going to war to find the kind of self awareness that allows me to be more honest and forthcoming today. Does that mean I regret it, or that I’m going to go to some protest and throw my medals on the White House lawn? No. I don’t regret any of it. I’m just finally able to see it for what it was. For me, it was about the experience. I learned a lot about myself, brotherhood, life, death, politics, and what war really is. I guess looking at it from an introspective or spiritual stand point, I believe a lot of this experience was meant as a stepping stone to help transport me to where I am in my life today. To take the lessons I learned to help arrive at a specific place in my life where it would all make more sense, and that journey is still continuing.
I’d say I got what I was looking for from the military. I walked away from my time in service with a lot of good and bad memories, a purple heart, and some pieces of a Taliban grenade still left in my body. I learned the raw difference between selfishness and selflessness. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears were shed. More than I could have ever anticipated. I lost some friends to the actual war, and lost a few more at home to the war in their heads. Encountering loss at such a young age is always hard, but it taught me about real gratitude. In return, I also made some of the best friends I’ll ever have in my life, and a piece of me will always be in Afghanistan and with 2nd Ranger Battalion. Finally, through my years at home after service, I’ve learned that not everyone is willing or able to understand our experiences. And that’s ok, it’s not a fault. It’s just the way it is.
So while the most impactful part of my life thus far lies within that four years, I try not to hold onto it too much. I try to take all those things I learned and apply them to my future rather than sulking in the past and thinking that it was the coolest thing I will ever do. Many vets make the mistake of presuming that their lives are downhill from war. However, I’ve come to understand that life is always up hill, all the way until you die, and I’ve earned the tools for that climb.
Kasey Pipitt enlisted in the Army in 2008 and was serving as a Ranger with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment by the spring of 2009. He was wounded in September of 2011 by a grenade on an operation in eastern Afghanistan, and left the Army in November of 2012. He’s spent the last six years documenting military transition through his eyes on blogs such as The Havok Journal and his own personal site, Outcast.