Recently, the Huffington Post article "Becoming A Racist: The Unfortunate Side Effect Of Serving Your Country?" has been making its rounds across the veteran community.
Basically it's a story about how a small group of veterans who were radicalized in Iraq and Afghanistan provide security for fringe Neo-Nazi groups. It continues with an anecdote about the author's NYPD lieutenant uncle and his prejudice.
The piece argues that not enough is being done to aid returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress from becoming racists. To the article's defense, it does say the percentage of veterans pulling security for the Right Wing groups is a small one. And I'd be lying if I said I hadn't heard a racial slur used by a piece of sh*t during my time in the U.S. Army.
However, it glosses over the U.S. military's extremely hard stance against those ****heads and the astronomical percentage of troops who learned to see their fellow service member as not white, brown, or black, but "green."
The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It's against our Values and everything we've stood for since 1775.
— GEN Mark A. Milley (@ArmyChiefStaff) August 16, 2017
All the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces have unequivocally denounced racism and hatred within their branch. Every value within each branch goes directly against what we all stand for. There is no way in Hell any soldier can truly live by the Army values if they are not loyal to and respect everyone on their left and right.
The Army's diversity mission statement is: "To develop and implement a strategy that contributes to mission readiness while transforming and sustaining the Army as a national leader in diversity." In every sense, we are.
The term "seeing green" refers to removing your view on another troop's personal identity and welcoming them as a brother or sister in arms who also swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Of course, we still understand that they are of a different ethnicity. We're not blind. We only place importance on their rank and position.
The Hollies would have never known that "He ain't heavy, he's my brother!" would be such a rallying cry for troops.
We just assume that no matter what race you are, wherever you comes from, whatever religion, gender, or orientation: if you're a young private - you're probably an idiot no matter what. And if you're a second lieutenant, you're probably an idiot who's also in the chain of command.
Troops come from all walks of life. I've served with former surfers from California, ranchers from Texas, and computer analysts from Illinois. Troops who grew up in the projects of Harlem to the high rises of Manhattan to trailer parks outside Atlanta to the suburbs of Cleveland.
I will forever be honored knowing they all embraced me as a brother. The life story of my friend, Spec. Allam Elshorafa, is proof that serving in the military will make you "see green" far more than the minute group of f*ckfaces that do radicalize.
Still one of his coolest photos was when he was a Private First Class. (Courtesy of Facebook)
Arriving at my first duty station in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I wasn't the most popular guy in the unit. I quickly realized that awkwardly talking about World of Warcraft wasn't doing me any favors with avid fishermen and party guys, yet they still always looked out for me as one of their own.
In Afghanistan, I got to know Elshorafa. He was a Muslim born in Jerusalem. His family moved to Dallas when he was younger and as an adult, he enlisted to defend his new American home.
We quickly became friends. We'd talk about cartoons we saw as kids, video games we played as teens, and movies we hated as adults.
Things shifted when the topic of "why we enlisted" came up. He told me it was his life's goal to help teach others that "not all Muslims are terrorists." They are a fringe group that preys on other Muslims and are a blight on his religion.
One of radical Islam's recruitment methods is to point at racism of westerners to rally disenfranchised Muslims. Yet, for all of the vile hatred those sh#tbags spew against the West, the largest target of Islamic terror is still other Muslims.
A little compassion goes a long way. (Photo via Military.com)
Islamic terror to Elshorafa was the same as how every group deals with the radical sh*theads. Not all Christians are Branch Davidians, and not all Republicans are in the Alt-Right. To him, America was his home and we were his family. I, and everyone else in the platoon, embraced him as such.
My brother-in-arms ended his own life in June 2017. He joined the staggering number of veterans that still remain one of the most tragic concerns within our community. The loss still pains me, and I wear the memorial band every day.
I'll never take it off, brother. I even argue with the TSA over taking it off.
It didn't matter what race or religion either of us was, Elshorafa had my six and it will always hurt that I didn't have his in his time of need.
He taught me about his faith and never attempted to convert me. He invited me to join him at an Eid al-Fitr celebration and the food was amazing. Just as you learn the players of every other football team other than your own by hanging out with their passionate fans, you learn in the military about others' ways of life by bullsh*tting with them.
Everyone embraces the same suck on a daily basis. We all bleed the same red. And we all wear the same 'green.'