Since 9-11, the default position on people in uniform is that they are all heroes. It's wrong. They aren't all heroes. People in the military may be hard working, honorable, and dependable and still not be heroes, except maybe to their kids. But even that isn't what I mean. People in the military are just people.
Smucks, some of them, slackers that do just enough to skate by. Some are guys you couldn't trust not to empty out your wallet while you're in the shower. Others are guys that will hit on your wife the weekend after you leave on deployment. Some are drunk as often as possible, rowdy troublemakers that make the towns outside the bases what they are.
Even the ones that are recognized heroes, like a guy that got up off the ground and attacked a group of pillboxes, shot and blasted an opening in the enemy's position, managed to both be seen doing this by people that survived, and survive himself, and have the paperwork go through so that some politician could hang a light blue ribbon around his neck might not be someone you'd want to leave alone with your daughter.
The one thing they have in common, from the best to the worst, is how young they are. Most of them are just kids, a year out of high school, that's who goes to war.
It's also who just goes to boot camp, puts on the uniform, and ends up issuing gear out of a supply depot in Alabama. Or serving as an MP on some big base full of the rowdy drunks I mentioned. Or fixing radar, radios, computer systems, trucks, tanks, jet engines, and so on. Even if you have one of the cool jobs like being a fighter pilot, what percentage of fighter pilots ever even see an enemy plane in the air?
When I was a Marine, I worked on radar on F-4s. I got a lot of electronics school. I went to Japan, Korea, and Philippines on 3 West-Pac tours. I wasn't a great Marine. I drove my boss nuts because I would be the guy to ask "WTF" when the truly stupid was being served to us. I was just there a lot of the time. And sometimes I skated. I was not a hero. The other Marines I served with, many of them far better Marines than me, were not heroes.
I did 6 years active and got an honorable discharge. I have my paperwork, lots of pictures, certificates, etc. I did exactly what I say I did and have plenty of proof. It was all during the Cold War. The riskiest thing I did was work on a flightline, not a zero risk location by any means, but nowhere near dangerous as going on liberty in Olongapo.