Infantrymen have a pride and arrogance that most Americans don’t understand and don’t like. Even those soldiers and Marines who aren’t infantrymen don’t understand. The pride doesn’t exist because I had a job that’s physically impressive. It certainly doesn’t exist because it takes a higher level of intelligence to perform our duties. It’s sad and I hate to admit it, but any college student or high school grad can physically do what I did. It’s not THAT demanding and doesn’t take a physical anomaly. Nobody will ever be able to compare us to professional athletes or fitness models. And it doesn’t take a very high IQ to read off serial numbers, pack bags according to a packing list, or know that incoming bullets have the right of way and will win every time.

The pride of the infantryman comes not from knowing that he’s doing a job that others can’t, but that he’s doing a job that others simply won’t do. Many infantrymen haven’t seen a lot of combat. While that may sound ideal to the civilian or non-infantry soldier, it pains the Grunt (a World War II term, GRUNT: Ground Replacement Usually Not Trained). I signed up to spit in the face of danger. To walk the line between life and death and live to do it again – or not. To come to terms with my own mortality and let others try to take my life instead of the life of those I love. Believing that I have not lived until I came close to dying, I deplore combat, but I know that if needed I would kill up close and personal for my country. I raised my hand and said, “Take me, America. I am willing to kill for you. I am willing to sacrifice my limbs for you. I will come back to America scarred and disfigured for you. I am willing to die for you.”

That’s why infantrymen carry ourselves with pride and arrogance. I am aware that America has lost respect for me. To many I am a bloodthirsty animal. To others I am too uneducated and stupid to get a regular job or go to college. Only I know the truth – that while there are few in America who claim to have respect for me, I return from war with less fanfare than a first down in a high school football game. Yes, people hang up their ‘Support Our Troops’ ribbons and on occasion thank me for my service. But in their eyes I detect pity and shame; not respect. Consider this: How excited would you be to meet the average infantryman? Now compare that with how excited you’d be to meet a famous actor or professional sports player and you will find that you, too, are guilty of placing the wrong people on a pedestal. You wouldn’t be able to tell me how many soldiers died in the war last month, but you’d damn sure be able to tell me if one of the actors from Twilight or Glee died.

Yet the infantryman doesn’t complain about that. He continues to do his job; to volunteer his life for you, all while being paid less in four years than Tom Brady makes in one game.

It’s a job most Americans don’t understand, don’t envy, and don’t respect. That is why I am proud to have been a Grunt.