The Few, The Proud, The Civilians

Jaime Coyne

Let me start off by saying that I respect and admire soldiers just as much as the next person. They’re brave and patriotic, and I am pretty sure I could not physically or mentally do what they do. The issue here has nothing to do with them or their great achievements. What I would like to comment on is the advertisements trying to recruit people.

Nothing annoys or angers me like all the commercials I see on TV for the army, navy, reserves, etc. Granted, all the commercials advertising late-night hotlines for horny youths are starting to get to me a little, but there really isn’t much to say about that topic. The recruitment commercials most prominent in my memory are the ones that show veterans interviewing for or starting a new job. In every one of these commercials, a coworker or boss describes some quality or ability needed for this job, like working as a team under pressure or doing complicated things on a computer. And every time, the veteran says something to the effect of, ‘I think I can handle it’ and gives the camera this look that completely patronizes the career field he is joining.

I guess the intended message of these commercials is that what you learn as a soldier crosses into all aspects of life, but the point that gets relayed to the audience is one of unbelievable arrogance. What the look that actor gives the camera tells me, is not necessarily that I should go sign up for the army, but that the army is superior to every other career. There cannot possibly be an importance in the existence of any other career on par with that of being a soldier. And, on top of that, a soldier is superior to every normal citizen. Nothing in your life can ever be as difficult, taxing or essential to society as what a soldier does. Nothing you do can make a difference in the world as vital as what a soldier does.

Maybe it seems like I am over exaggerating, or being oversensitive, but those commercials never fail to get my blood boiling. It feels as though that commercial is telling me that because I am a pacifist, I don’t give a damn about my country. That I have to wear some sort of a uniform and salute to try and change the world. I don’t deny that being a soldier is one great way to try and make a difference. But why is it the only way? Is it because there is so much concrete evidence, so many tangible things to point at and say, that makes a person a soldier, and we know soldiers do good things? Is it so na’ve and pointless to try to reach people on a smaller scale, to try and touch people with your words, or with little acts of kindness, or by saving lives one at a time out of a hospital, or by talking to someone for an hour a week and just letting them know you care? There are plenty of battles on the home front, too. Millions, billions of them. Maybe no one is checking for flat feet, but the issues are there.

The army (and navy and marines… you know the list) is important, and recruitment advertisements are necessary. I just wish they could use a different tactic to try and convince people. Commercials for CDs don’t express the idea ‘you listen to bad music. Come buy ours’. Insulting people is generally not the road to take towards success, though I can’t quote for you what kind of an impact these recruitment commercial have had. Regardless, they influence at least one person to want to mute all future commercials relating to soldiers. It would be nice if it in the future, these commercials could express the greatness of being a soldier, without belittling the rest of us.