Every now and then you’ll come across something on the internet that catches your eye and you click and it completely resonates with you. It doesn’t matter where it is from or who said it but it is perfect. And it shows, despite the differences we all have, deep down the same things that drive us, that makes us WHO and what we are, are exactly the same.
Today I was scouring the news and was looking for one thing and found quite another. I saw a post from the Hindustan Times that quoted a Colonel Saurabh Singh Shekhawat from the Indian Army. I don’t normally read the Hindustan Times but was certainly glad I did today.
Colonel Shekhawat is the commander of the 21 Special Forces unit and also among the most decorated soldiers in India. And he was filmed in a very short clip as he spoke to and was filmed by another officer and talked about being in the military and what it means to act like a unit to the soldiers in it.
“… When I was commissioned and when I joined special forces, I was asked by my NCO, ‘What is your religion? What is your caste?’ I said, ‘Hindu Rajput’. He said, ‘Bloody chap, take a dip in that dirty water!’ So I went and took a dip. Then I realized I had said something wrong,” Col Shekhawat said in the video.
The colonel says, that he was asked the same question and his reply was a little different. “Then again he asked the same question and I replied, ‘Sir my religion is special forces and my caste is special forces’. He then told me that you are an officer and so your religion is the religion which is the religion of your boys … So, as an officer you are everything,” he says.
“If you apply this kind of template in the country, most of the problems will be solved … All the religions are there, all the classes and clans are together and still they are one unit,” he adds. The Colonel described that everyone in the army lives as a “pluralistic secular society.”
We here in the U.S. share much of what Colonel Shekhawat had to say. Those same things, maybe worded a bit differently but essentially the same thing could easily be said at Ft. Bragg, Ft. Benning, Camp Lejeune, at Coronado or at Eglin. His comments about a pluralistic secular society, fit the very tenets of what makes the United States.
What is Secular Pluralism? Secular Pluralism can be defined as a system which is not under the control of any religion or singular belief system, nor does it give precedence to any religion.
Secular Pluralism has been at the forefront of our culture ever since the founding fathers placed the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” as a motto found on the Great Seal of the United States. They also placed the words on the one dollar bill and on all U. S. coins.
The meaning of this Latin phrase is “Out of Many, One.” Originally it was thought to represent out of many colonies emerged one great nation. However, in our contemporary times, we now believe that out of many has come to mean: peoples, races, and ancestries which have consequently emerged a single people and a great nation, typically referred to as the great melting pot of the United States.
That is a great metaphor for the military and a perfect one for Special Forces. In Special Forces, no one cares what your background was, who your father was or what religion you do or don’t believe in. We’re united by a purpose. We train and fight for one another. Our bond is as strong and many times even stronger than the family bonds that we were raised in.
Our teams are as varied as can be. When I look back at some of the guys I had the pleasure and privilege of serving with, we came from completely different backgrounds. Tex-Mex guys with Cowboy hats, Southern boys who grew up hunting and fishing, Spanish guys from Puerto Rico, guys from the West Coast, cool surfer dudes and laid back guys from the Northwest and of course an abnormally large amount of guys from NYC and Boston. Everyone spoke with a different accent but we all spoke a common language, Special Forces.
Religions? Some were Southern Baptists, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, a Buddhist with an atheist or two thrown in for good measure. It didn’t matter, we were a family. And like a family, we’d fight at times like cats and dogs, but we always had each other’s back.
It is a great teaching point for the young troops wanting to become Special Forces and are actively aspiring to be that one day. As a Special Forces soldier, you’ll be tasked to work with every kind of foreign allied soldier that you can shake a stick at. You’ll live with them, eat with them, train them, lead them into combat, fight with them and sadly in some cases, you’ll die with them.
But before you will have the privilege to do that, you’ll have to prove yourself worthy in the Regiment. And we are the greatest “pluralistic secular society” that you’ll find in anyone’s military anywhere. So, for the aspiring Special Forces candidates… are you ready for the challenge?
“What is YOUR religion?
Photo Courtesy: US Army