More Than A Mattress Sale

Judging from the comments, more than a few of you are aware that I used to have another website. I already suspected as much, because internet denizens never let ANYTHING vanish from a signature file. Thus it was that when I started this site, I vowed that I would not repeat my old content. I also made a rule that I wouldn’t post on weekends.

That was a week ago. I’m breaking both rules right now. What the hell, I’m a rebel.

The essay I’m reprinting was written in May, 2001. 9/11 had not yet happened. My writing skills, and more importantly my editing skills, were… let us be kind and say “less practiced,” okay? And in five of the six years I worked for Mythic, a week didn’t go by where I didn’t get a letter from one of my players, leaving home.


“I don’t know when I’m coming back. Will my house still be there?”

“I’m posted to Europe, and I just wanted to say thanks – I talk to my wife and daughter every night in the game.”

“They don’t have internet where I’m going. They say sand plays hell with computers. So how often do you delete characters?”

“My buddies and I pooled our money for a barracks satellite, so we can still play! What can I do to optimize the settings?”

“My brother isn’t coming home. Can you name an NPC after him? He’d have really liked that.”

If you are a community person, you already know how I feel. If you’re not – you need to understand that players become “my players,” when you’re sitting in the hot seat. You feel possessive, maternal, sisterly. If you are a sucker for a person in a uniform, as I have always been, having one of your players ship out is something you take personally. And if you are against this particular war, losing one of your players to death or misadventure feels like being punched in the face.

I think that honor, duty, loyalty, and courage are noble things no matter their context. I feel helpless, and insignificant, when I think of such qualities burning out like a shooting star. I feel proud to have known them, even in passing.

The following was written by someone who never lost a player. I wish I could convey how much more I feel it, now, but I haven’t been blessed with that kind of writing ability. I ask you instead to read this, and take a minute on Monday to sit with me and remember all my players so far away from home.

More Than a Mattress Sale

I come from a rather mixed background. New England Yankee farmer blood flows side by side with Russian Jew, passing by Native American in my veins, pumping past Mexican and French and Dutch. Proud landowners mix it up with bootleggers, and pillars of their communities mingle with what is delicately referred to in Appalachian circles as “hill trash.” My ancestors have jack shit in common with each other, except for maybe a desire to kick each other’s asses in a bar fight. And one other thing – on all sides, when a war broke out, they all served their nation in times of war. They defended their ideals and their communities with force. No one, in any of the forked and twisted brambles of my family tree, has ever waited to be drafted.

Look at the military. Don’t think about the policy makers, the political machinations behind the campaigns, the presidential motivations that send people away from home with guns in hand. Look at the military itself, and the people who choose to serve their country. They do a job with more red tape and forms than the IRS, that pays less than what a plumber makes, that earns them less respect than your average gangbanger gets. They do their job twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When the rest of us are eating Thanksgiving dinner, or shooting bottle rockets at each other in July, or recovering from nasty hangovers on New Year’s day, there’s some kid holding his gun on guard duty, or taking his turn on watch, or even sitting in some squalid Arlington, Virginia cubicle processing paperwork for a new AEGIS destroyer. And I say kid, because throughout history most of the armed forces are made up of the same people in the gamer demographic. People our age have fought the wars in the past century, and I daresay wars in general.

Nobody has to put themselves in harm’s way. Even when there’s a draft, you can always leave the country, or serve in a non-combat capacity. No one joins the military so they can go off to die. They join for money, for travel, for excitement, for job skills, for security, for family tradition, or even sometimes a sense of duty. The hazard to this job is that occasionally other people try to kill you. And sometimes, people die.

Sometimes people die in wars with clearly defined causes, and the folks back home salute the fallen, and chisel their names onto statues and say, “This person died saving the world from the Nazis” or “This person died defending democracy” or “This person died defending his homeland.” Sometimes people die in wars that don’t make a lot of sense, and they don’t get statues until long afterwards. They get dismissed as fools for serving a country that shouldn’t have sent them off to die. They are mocked for their naivete, for keeping their oaths to serve a nation that doesn’t even know what it wants. Patriotism, duty, obligation, honor, these are the vestigial remnants of a backwards age, right? Why die for something so meaningless as oil, or pineapples, or cocaine, or worthless land no one actually wants the trouble of governing?

Sometimes the people who claim to be public servants, with their inflated salaries and egos, decide that their interests are important enough to be defended with the blood of soldiers. They choose to send invading forces, because the people of some country or another democratically elect a socialist. Sometimes the people with nothing more to their name but an inbred pedigree and a reserved parking space at National Airport stand up and declare that American soldiers should be willing to die for whatever strikes a chord with voters in an election year. American people (being as a general rule ill-informed boobs more concerned with their dicks and their checkbooks than with global politics) tend to vilify the soldier when they discover the uselessness of certain wars. Never the person who sent them to die, always the person who actually took the risk.

Out of all the blame and second-guessing, the fallen serviceman gets one single day. Monday is Memorial Day, a day to remember those who died in service of their country. How do we commemorate this day? We drink beer, we buy cars, and we sit in traffic heading for the beach. We listen to the same stupid mattress sale ad over and over until we swear by all that’s holy that we will sleep on cactus spines before we ever buy a mattress from that screaming idiot.

You know something? It’s more than a goddamn mattress sale. People our age went out and died because they believed that whether the United States was right, wrong, or merely misguided, it was still worth defending and dying for. If we don’t spare so much as a minute from our precious three-day weekend to think about the people who gave their lives so that the world could be a better place, maybe we don’t deserve that kind of sacrifice.

At 3:00 PM on Monday, please stop for sixty seconds and offer a salute in your heart to those who died for their country. Spare a thought for the people out there right now doing a job you and I don’t ever want to do ourselves. Go ahead and have a beer, but first offer up a toast to the people who gave everything they had so that you wouldn’t have to have a care in the world while you drink it. Remember that there are ideals worth dying for, and that there are people who have done so.

Tweetyrants ©2001. Thanks from Tweety to all the gamers in uniform.

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23 Comments

  1. Gar said,

    May 27, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you Tweety, and thank you Sanya for reposting this.
    We who wore the uniforms and stood the watches, thank you.
    In the end, all we wanted was to be acknowledged for our service, to our nation and our people.

  2. John P said,

    May 27, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Very poignant, thanks for posting that.

    I’m proud of our young men and women who serve, and am heartbroken at the loss of life (on any side) in war… past, present and future.

    Let’s all hope for peace… and make sure our kids receive a hero’s welcome when they come home.

  3. Chuck S. said,

    May 27, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you, Sanya.

  4. Frank said,

    May 27, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you. As a soldier in this country’s Army, feel obligated to say that no one in the military volunteers to die. If we volunteer to be deployed overseas, it is for duty and honor. We took an Oath. We will keep that Oath. We will fight so that others may not have to; So that others may stay Free.

    As a gamer, a college student, and a National Guardsman in the state of Wyoming, I have had many of my friends deploy. Most were non-voluntary. Fortunately all of them came back, yet every single one of them has changed. And as I sit here, progressing toward my Bachelor’s Degree, I feel pangs of guilt that they are the ones doing their duty and not myself. But I will, pardon the expression, soldier on and continue with the degree that is not more than a year and a half away. Once it is complete, I will be switching from the enlisted side to the Officer side; commissioning as 2nd Lieutenant. I do this so that I can lead and be an example for those like me. I do this so that if and when we get deployed to the sandbox, I can keep those like me safe. You may think it honorable to die for your country, but it is one-hundred times greater to have lived for it.

    Soldiers of America, I Salute You!

    SPC Frank Derksen
    960th Maintenance Co

  5. DaveN said,

    May 27, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Speaking as a former infantry officer, I thank you for reposting this, Sanya. For guys like Frank, above, I can only say I am proud to have served in the same Army as you. Mission first, and people always my friend.

  6. Tauvix said,

    May 27, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    Frank,

    As someone who has elected not to serve in uniform, I say thank you. And thank you to your friends. I don’t see you as less of a soldier, or doing less then your duty, for working toward becoming an officer. We need people to stand up and lead as much as we need enlisted men and woman.

    Keep living for us!

  7. Sanya said,

    May 27, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    Wow, that’s so trippy. I was searching around for a particular website and suddenly saw my name staring back at me! It’s always neat to find another Sanya. 😀

  8. Sean said,

    May 27, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    Thank you Sanya.

    As a member of the United States Army I want to thank you for your words. Your words have touched me. I am currently on my second deployment and its feels great to see that someone cares for our service men and women.

    I plan on emailing this link out to all my buddies that I am currently out here with.

  9. Jason Ballew said,

    May 28, 2007 at 10:30 am

    To everyone who has ever served in uniform or who is today…thank you.

    Thank you for doing the job that no one else wants to. Thank you for putting yourself in danger just for a bunch of idiots who frankly couldn’t give a damn about you or anything other than what’s on the latest reality television show or the latest sports score.

    Thank you for a doing a job that no one really wants, that the government themselves have made unpalatable to many, and that the military themselves makes appear overly clean and glamorous through their commercials.

    Thank you for being there when things go bad, even if they’re not necessarily going bad for us. Thank you…for doing what is necessary.

    While I may not agree with my government, and while I may not agree with this particular war…I will never disagree with a soldier for having the courage, decency and pride in themselves and their country to do what is necessary to get the job done.

    With all my heart,

    Thank you.

  10. Chris said,

    May 28, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    A nice post.

    And, you’re welcome.

    Signed,
    A Vet

  11. SavageX said,

    May 29, 2007 at 8:41 am

    Thanks Tweety.

  12. Heartless_ said,

    May 29, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Great post! Thanks, from someone that tried, but failed to play DAoC while deployed 😛

  13. Mike said,

    May 30, 2007 at 6:41 am

    Thank you, Sanya, for posting this.

    Based on what I have read on your site, you know what a simple “thank you” can do to lift a person’s spirits, and as an Army vet I can tell you that a thank you, a discount at a store, a free haircut, a little smile and a wave from a kid I passed on the street did more for my sense of pride and worth than anything else in my eight years of service.

    I get chain letters from family members that seem to goad otherwise reluctant people into saying something nice to the troops. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an eloquent, persuasive essay full of supporting arguments before now, and I will forward this to all my friends.

    For my part, a sense of worth and being appreciated for doing my job was all I ever needed to keep me going. Again, thank you for this.

  14. blachawk said,

    May 30, 2007 at 9:05 am

    I was able to play DAoC from Iraq, but all I could really do was solo grind. For an RvR addict like me, that got old fast.

    The Navy sent me back to Virginia Tech to finish up my B.S., and I was very surprised to have students and professors thank me for my service when they see me in uniform with various combat decorations. That wasn’t at all what I expected.

    When people thank me, I feel somewhat embarassed. I didn’t do what I did out of love for my country or other noble reasons, I did/do it because I love it. Skydivers have nothing on the adrenaline rush of flying into combat to pick up wounded, knowing that your decisions and actions will make the difference between life and death or agony and comfort for a fellow soldier, whether it’s an Iraqi, American, ally, or enemy.

    Frankly, I wish I was back right now instead of sitting in class listening to a professor drone on about how to construct an REA diagram of a relational database.

    Anyway, the best thanking I ever got was in New York for fleet week. I got thanked every night with a different girl for the entire week.

  15. Cyndre said,

    May 30, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Good stuff, Sanya.

  16. Skeetarian said,

    May 31, 2007 at 2:11 am

    Wishing I’d checked here before now…But, as the father of an active duty soldier, this post and comments sums up just about every emotion my wife and I feel every minute about our son and all the other kids’ past and present that have served.

    When he graduated from basic last year, we flew to Missouri from Arizona to be there for his big day. The flight there, we spoke with a number of folks heading home to Missouri at the airport of on the plane, at the diner on the way and the motel when we arrived. Not one single person gave us ‘that look’ we had steeled ourselves for.

    Each and every person we met on the way there was appreciative and supportive of our son. They offered us congratulations and wished our family well. The only thing anyone said was that we must surely be worried about him joining while a war was going on…which we are of course.

    They asked us why.

    The only thing I can tell anyone, to this day, is what he told us just before he left for basic.

    “You always told me to do the right thing, dad. This is the right thing for me to do.”

    Now, of course, I meant when he found a wallet…or someone needed help fixing something…or a friend called needing an ear to talk to. Little did we know just how far our ‘Do what’s right’ talks would take him.

    Well, we went to graduation with the other hundreds of proud family and friends and felt the chill as they marched in cadence into the auditorium, yelling their marching song. We felt the warmth and pride fill the area as each name was called until it was ‘our boys” turn!

    We picked up his gear and made our way off the base, headed home with our new soldier for a well deserved leave. He wore his Class A uniform home and we were met with such an outpouring of positive feelings that I came to realize that despite what you hear/read in the media…The people really do have a pretty firm grasp on what’s going on.

    As stated above, they may not support the war…but they sure as hell support the troops!

    We were approached 3 times at lunch by strangers that took the time from their day to come over and shake our boys’ hand and thank him for his service. When we visited The Arch in St. Louis, I stopped keeping track of the number of people that felt it THEIR duty to be sure they thanked him for HIS service.

    So, to all those that have posted here and the countless others that have read this touching tribute to our service men and women…

    Thank You for YOUR Service!

    /military

  17. Loic Claveau said,

    June 1, 2007 at 6:24 am

    Very nice and interesting read!

    And we europeans CM have to deal with another department…Localisation! Our two departments are intimely connected!

    Funny when I think that yesterday, I had a long discussion with the Head of the Loc Department about what you are talking about: Department Priorities. The question was: The message the Community Team needs to convey towards the player in order to make them understand the Loc Process is not as simple as one would thought 🙂

  18. Oliver Smith said,

    June 1, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    I’m half British, half German, both sides of the family reduced to mere embers by WWII.

    I was raised in a family that was thoroughly shaped by the war and in a town wars visited and scarred. The use of cluster bombs on the town mean’t their threat was still present when I was a kid. UXB excavations are commonplace in France and Belgium, but far less so in England.

    So I sometimes had my doubts about whether the WWII game, I first played and later worked for, was a disservice to the lives given and lost in that war. Many of our players are servicemen and we have memorial plaques with the names of those who’ve fallen. It used to seem crass to me… But then I saw how the players came together on the various memorial and remembrance days, honoring those who died in WWII as well as those who have died serving their country, regardless of politics, in the years since.

  19. Ashloiren said,

    June 7, 2007 at 12:38 am

    I could not read this the day it was posted, and am still having difficulty with it today. I too am a veteran, 9 years USAF, and my twin sis is now in her 26th year of service. What is most important here is that people realize that we who serve/served did not make the decision to fight those battles. That was done by politicians, We simply did what we always do…serve. That choice, to serve, means comittment, and we did…

    Thank you Sanya for posting this, and thanks to all of my fellow service men and women, past and present, for your service.

  20. June 8, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Thank you Sanya. /mil

  21. Philip Ripper said,

    June 24, 2007 at 1:25 am

    The honor, tenacity, and glory of our soldiers, sailers, airmen, and marines is only the more astounding and monumental when it is shown in the backdrop of a foolish political decision.

    Cheers!; to those that fight, those that stand behind them, and those that have before.

  22. Matennon said,

    July 1, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Hi Sanya, I’m just now catching up on your blog after being on temporary duty out of state for the past month (USAF). I’m Ashloiren’s twin, and having grown up during the Vietnam years, I remember how many in our nation treated the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. It’s especially heartening to see the efforts that people go to every day to ensure that my brothers and sisters in arms and I are NOT treated that way now. It’s not about the recognition for me, and I dare say it isn’t for most of us. But it sure makes me stand up a bit taller (which is good, because I’m short!) and often chokes me up when someone who passes me in a store or a parking lot and sees me in uniform takes the time to come and thank me for my service!

    Thanks for reposting this, Sanya, and though Memorial Day is past for this year, I salute those who have served, those who are still serving, and most especially those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

  23. Taemojitsu said,

    August 12, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Patriotism is a seductive meme.

    So I almost don’t want to say it… it’s a lot more of an informed perspective than most people have, and there’s something to be said for keeping one’s mouth shut at times. But there are sacrifices made that don’t involve dying, and there are dangerous jobs that don’t happen to be as glamorous as going to war. And there’s always another side to every story….

    If I died, it would be a stupid death. I wouldn’t be proud of it. But I would be ashamed more than anything to avoid going there just because of the small chance of dying, when we are the ones that made that country what it is now, when the military offers so much to those who join in hopes of enticing new bodies in support of a war it didn’t choose.


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