We have an opportunity at this moment that is given to very few, to be the generation that defines forever what those who come after us will be be judged by. The United States has now added Heathen (in various forms and permutations) to its list of recognized religions for service folk. The Canadian Armed Forces already recognizes it.
The headstones of our service folk who fall will no longer bear the cross that was no friend to us in life, nor comfort to us when we have passed, but our own symbols. That is just and right, but not really as important in our day to day lives and careers as the less esoteric and more practical reality that now Heathen service-folk are being recognized as such by an institution that has yet to develop an institutional understanding of who we are, and what we are.
Those who came before were soldiers who tried their best to live Heathen in an institution that had no understanding or inclination to understand who and what we were. Soldiers were permitted religion, pretty much as we were permitted underwear, in any of the three standard issue Judeo-Christian sizes, colour designated by service, quantity one (sign your loan card for the symbol designating your choice, or tick Atheist and go commando).
That day is now over, and we can be counted as Heathens. This is our first chance to make an impression not just as soldiers, sailors, airmen of our particular service, but collectively as Heathen service folk. You literally never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is critical. We have the past generation of service folk and their advocates to thank for this opportunity, and now we have to answer the question of what we are going to do with it.
Are we going to be standard-bearers, or snowflakes?
I am not going to lie to you, it can go both ways, and whichever way you choose, those who come after are going to have to wear either as a badge of honour or a rucksack of shit they will have to pack their whole career.
A little history lesson for some of you younger folk. I was a soldier when dinosaurs ruled the earth and held every enlisted position above E5 (Sgt and above). During this time women were integrated into the combat arms. I served in the Signal Corps, who already had women integrated, and got to see this process happen on the ground as an NCO in that particular culture.
Those first women were given the choice of being banner-carriers or snowflakes. The choice was not fair. Those who chose to be banner-carriers would have to be twice as good as male NCO to not only reach the same bar as their fellows, but soar high above it, if they wished their advancement to be seen as earned rather than gifted. Their standard of conduct must not be acceptable, but exemplary at every turn, or their ranks and appointments would be seen not as worthy of respect, but as garbage the service was forced to swallow and a poison that ate away at the vital strength of the force that stood between our nation and the foe.
Half of you are already getting ready to call bullshit, the other half are either female or not white or straight and shaking their head wondering why anyone still has to be told this shit who has two eyes and at least one functioning brain-cell behind them. Like I said, I was on the ground when we did this the last time and I really do understand the process, and the culture.
There is a second choice. You can go snowflake. If you do, I swear before all the gods, your ancestors will weep that one of theirs has lived to so dishonour the blood they bear. Those who come after you, however blameless, will wear your choice like a rucksack full of someone else’s shit, and the damage will perhaps never be fully undone.
Going snowflake means ‘standing on your rights’ and requesting special treatment based on the newly recognized Heathen religious designation. Think long and hard about this choice.
There are a lot more Heathens in military service per capita than there are in civilian life. We are called to serve our people, to make of our lives an offering in return for the gifts we have received as free citizens in a land kept free by the blood, sweat, and tears of those who came before us. This is how we came to be in the uniform in the first place. Remember that.
When we make an offering to the gods, we offer our first and best. When we make an offering to the people, our people, we can and must do the same. Offer our first and best service. It is not enough to be a soldier, we must be the very best one we can be.
Right now, we are standing together for the first time as an identifiable group within our respective services. Right now we are DEFINING what Heathen means to our service. If we choose to be the banner-carriers of our service, the very best at our respective trades, exemplars of our services, then those Heathens who come after us will wear a label that has come to mean dedicated professional soldier. If we choose to stand upon our rights and demand special treatment, concessions to our requirements, to have the bar lowered for us at any point, Heathen will come to mean ‘special snowflake’ and every service person who follows you will have to deal with the rolling of the eyes and snickering that follows that soldiers identification as Heathen.
Talk to the women who went through this. If you have any questions about how you should be treating your new status as Heathen within your service, talk to any current service or retired women in the combat arms who made it through the senior NCO ranks. They understand how it is to soldier on when living under a ‘not fair’ condition is the price paid for making sure those who come after have a fair shake.
I saw a whole lot of women get it right, and make it easier for those who followed after in the Regiment. I saw what happened in units where people chose to go full snowflake, and the ration of shit that those who followed for decades after is a cost you do not want your own choices to carry.
I can and will continue to advocate to make sure our Heathen service folk receive the same treatment and opportunities for support that their Judeo-Christian fellows receive. At the same time, listen to an old soldier, for the first time we are being seen by our respective services as a discrete and knowable group. The opinion of what a Heathen means to your units is being formed in this generation, in this very moment. The spotlight is on you.
Chose to be banner-men, banner-women. Chose to be exemplars of the virtues that our faith and our service shares. Show your service why they should be proud to have the service of Heathens within their ranks, and teach them to treasure what we bring. Do this, and you will not only earn great personal worth and honour, but you will make it better for every generation that follows you in service who identify as Heathen.
It will not be fair, but to be honest, fair is a civilian term. Suck it up and soldier. Let us fight to make sure your rights are protected, we have served and are free to bitch for you. Don’t just shut up and soldier, shut up and SHINE as a soldier. Shine so bright that Heathen will be something that your service will come to associate with the standards they desire from their troops.