Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 128

will cause division among the increasing number of soldiers with diverse perspectives. Accepting then that everyone will die with no valid guarantees otherwise, and acknowledging the organizational problems generated by spiritual narratives in diverse forms, perhaps leaders could focus on the accomplishments and contributions that fallen comrades leave behind. Remember Me Forever The fourth narrative is legacy. Of all the narratives of immortality, (Photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Holley, 982nd Combat Camera Company) Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, left, supervises and provides security as Pfc. Jonathan legacy lends itself most easily to the Ayers and Pfc. Adam Hamby emplace an M240 machine gun 23 October 2007 in the military context. In Homer’s Iliad, mountains of Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. The soldiers are all from 2nd Battalion, the mythical warrior Achilles must 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. Kahler was killed 26 January 2008. Respected and admired for his skill, professionalism, and dedica- choose to leave Ilium for “a long life” or tion to duty, he was universally mourned by those who knew him. stay and die to “gain unfading glory.”16 proposes that groups will “fight and die in order to He chooses glory, and it is not surprisaffirm [their mode of immortality] or put down rivals ing that his story endures. Achilles symbolizes a warrior’s who threaten their immortality system.”11 This is not immortality through legacy, in the Western tradition. to say that religion and views of resurrection and However, few warriors—sparing names such as Alexander the soul have no place in Army leadership, but they the Great and Julius Caesar—gain enduring fame. Still, legremain deeply personal, not universal, views. Leaders acy offers a path to avoiding complete personal extinction, who attempt to use them must take care not to expect but it comes with a dark side. conformity within their units or to proselytize. The search for legacy through personal glory is a narA dominant trend within the U.S. military is the cissistic one that runs counter to the selflessness needed increasing diversity of the force, including a religious for a unit-based ethos; therefore, modern armies seldom diversity that mirrors America’s changing religious celebrate heroes as the Greeks did. Since the Napoleonic landscape.12 This is a trend that then chairman of the era, the common tool for constructing a legacy narrative has Joint Chiefs of Staff, now retired U.S. Navy Adm. Mike been nationalism. Soldiers may die, but their achievements Mullen, said in 2010 “can’t go fast enough.”13 Despite live on in the security and prosperity of the nation-state. this narrative from strategic leaders to accept diversity, A nationalistic theme is problematic for two reasons: friction surrounds a significant population of military the relationships between the force and the host-nation leaders who struggle to integrate soldiers and families population, and the relationships among members of the whose beliefs lie beyond Judeo-Christian perspectives.14 force whose cultures differ. This is because a nationalisCertain warrior societies—the Japanese samurai tic theme tends to be based on an ethnocentric defense and Greek hoplites, for example—successfully emmechanism (a superior attitude about one’s culture). ployed a belief in the immortal soul to promote resolve Enhanced cultural themes such as nationalistic in battle; however, these societies exhibited nearly messages, combined with the high mortality risk of perfect ethnic and religious homogeneity.15 In a diverse combat, will generate increased tension between solforce such as the U.S. Army, using such narratives to diers and populations of other nationalities, cultures, bolster collectively hardy attitudes toward mortality and religions—if they apply at all within a diverse force. is risky. Some in the formation may find cour