Ranger Up!

I’ve never met them, but I love and envy the guys over at rangerup.com.  They’ve got the ability to create some really neat products and some of the descriptions of their shirts are amazing.  Someone over there has got a way of expressing in words what so many Joes feel.  And their shirts aren’t “just shirts”.  They’re these great touchstones.  Reminders to those of us who wear them of what we’ve seen and done and experienced, a pick-me-up at times.  Sometimes a bolstering before we head out into the world.  I was listening to something on NPR once, about a Marine who was on leave in some bad part of town in some bad country.  He was wearing a dress uniform and was walking past an alleyway were a guy was getting beaten.  The guy called for help and the Marine said the last thing in the world he wanted to do was walk down that alley.  It would’ve been so easy to pretend he didn’t hear and keep on walking, but he couldn’t.  He was wearing the uniform and couldn’t disgrace it.  I’ve mentioned before, when I’m feeling like a fat greaseball shitbag and I’m out running, trying to get back into shape, I refuse to wear anything that says “Army” on it.  I don’t want people to relate me at my lowest, huffing and puffing, to that branch of service.  It’s not until I’m back at what I consider “acceptable” levels of fitness that I’ll break out those shirts or hats to wear.  Even though I don’t wear a “uniform” anymore, these shirts are sometimes a reminder of what I was, what I can do, what I still am at heart.  And that reminder keeps me from doing things like backing down from a necessary confrontation or walking by something that’s wrong without correcting it, thus setting a new standard.  Heck, maybe it’s just as simple as keeping me from walking over a piece of trash without picking it up and throwing it away.

The shirts are also a reminder to those that see us.  There’s a quote in “Heartbreak Ridge” that goes something like this:

This is the new Marine Corps. The new breed. Characters like you are an anachronism. You should be sealed in a case that reads break glass only in the event of war.

A lot of people don’t appreciate the military, the sheepdogs.  They don’t want to be reminded that there is evil in the world.  Bad people out there who want to do bad things to us.  They’d like to live in a Utopia and think if they believe in it hard enough, it’ll magically happen.  And soldiers who cross their paths in their daily life are reminders that that isn’t the case.  Funny, even though we’re a country at war, there’s still talks of reducing benefits to service members and veterans to save money.  Guys who were called upon and sent into harm’s way right after 9/11 when we were terrified they’d now like to shuffle off quietly into a corner.  To tuck under glass until the next time they’re needed.

I didn’t sit down to write those last couple of paragraphs.  I was just going to throw up a quick shout-out and a link to the new shirt from the guys at RANGER UP.  But I guess I needed to say thank you to those guys over there.  Keep making the great products and I’ll keep buying them.

Anyways, here’s their new shirt.   I hope they don’t mind, but I’m cutting and pasting the description down below.

The old saying goes that a Veteran is someone who at one point signed a check to the United States for an amount “up to and including his or her life”. It’s pithy and gets the point across, but the reality of having lost a good friend is very different. It’s made even more stark when I meet soldiers now. I just didn’t realize how young I was then. I didn’t feel young. I wasn’t making “young” decisions. I knew exactly what I was doing and what was at stake. Just like they do now. Just like those close friends we have lost did.

Invariably, when a bunch of vets get together and the night is slipping away too quickly, as they often do, someone will buy a round. Usually Maker’s, Jack, or Jim. We know the toast before it comes. The odd thing about being together is that spoken or unspoken, we all know who is missing – who would have been there for this reunion, otherwise.

For most people in America, or Britain, or Australia or Canada or any of our allies, the casualties are a brief moment on the news, never again to be thought of or considered. Only the families of the fallen are left to bear the weight of the loss…and of course us. We know what they gave up. We suffered the same pains, but somehow we came out okay. And they were so damn young.

To us and those like us, we grow fewer every day.

And yes, there are damn few left.

I’m trying to organize a get together of some of the guys that I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with.  Even though it’s only been a couple years since we got back, the group is already smaller for various reasons.  Several guys moved away, several are deployed again.  One was arrested and dropped off the face of the earth, a couple are leaving for points unknown.  Before the circle gets any smaller, I want the opportunity to enjoy their fellowship again.  And yes, sometime during the night we’ll raise a glass with this toast.


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