Small Wars Journal

Grunts and Gifts

Grunts and Gifts

Keith Nightingale

In our various Christmas mythologies, we relate the parable of the Magi and their gifts. We use this artifice as a cosmetic rationale to exchange gifts and may lose the initial point which was to bestow those gifts on those uniquely worthy. We might at this time, reflect on our Nation’s greatest gifts. Our greatest gifts are the faceless, nameless Grunts that have made and kept our history and propelled us to our present situation of unparalleled prosperity and security compared to all others. They are generally lost to us as a concept and entity as we enjoy the grace and favor of our land and its comparative prosperity for us all.

From the barefoot believers at Valley Forge to the hills of Helmond, Kandahar, Fallujah, the DMZ and innumerable outposts that fly our flag, we have always had the greatest of our gifts stand for us and what we believe. The gifts of the Grunt are also others, less fortunate, whom they allow to enjoy a moment of light in their very dark world. They are the gift of the Grunt.

These Grunt gifts, our National Magi, reflect the very essence of what we are-the wretched refuse of some far teeming shore, now succored by our land, that have chosen to grasp the torch and carry it to the world from which their ancestors fled, in service to their predecessors dreams and their contemporary beliefs. They step forward and swear to a cause greater than self and join the very small percent of our population that truly can say they were part of something greater than themselves.

From a myriad of cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, those who serve on our behalf, coalesce into small elements of a larger uniformed being. The shared experience, forged in their creation of the moment and tempered by their deployed environment, provide a human glue that bonds them forever. They create the permanent sinews of our security so that we may truly sleep well at night. A condition, so everlasting that we take it totally for granted without thought as to how we gained this state of grace. From them, nothing is asked that is not given. Nothing ordered that is not accomplished. This is largely understood only by themselves. We are too busy doing other things.

From time to time, they give of themselves: this, their greatest gift to each other in the peril of the moment for the success of them all. Collectively, they give for us all-a gift of the greatest honor and value. They come with no wrapping or ribbons other than the uniform they wear and the sustaining belief they are doing profoundly right.

Truly, our Grunts are the gift that keeps on giving.