Soldier for hire.
Those are the words conjured up by 'mercenary', but it's really unfair, because most mercenaries are men - and sometimes women - who either work as security contractors in places where a government presence is politically undesirable, or are seriously committed individuals who bet their lives that they can help right a wrong through force of arms.
They don't get rich.
The risk of capture is terrifying, because it's an experience they don't survive.
And if they get killed, their families are left holding a largely empty bag.
Why do they do it?
Idealism. They actually care, and are willing to put that caring into action. (Yes, there are some who think it's cool, or that combat's addictive, or, worst, want to kill...but they get weeded out, because they're an irresponsible hazard to everyone around them.)
So, on this Memorial Day, give a thought for the people who stand at the ragged edge of humanity, facing outward, ready to slay the dragons that we'd rather not face.
And give a thought to their families.
Deployments - called contracts - typically last a year, with 30 days home leave. If they can get home; travel from most employment venues involves a bit more than Travelocity.
Contact with home while on contract is infrequent or impossible. The satphones that are sometimes available to troops are almost never available to contractors (though most American - and some foreign - service personnel will try to bend the rules, and try to cut a break for a merc a long way from home).
Internet connections depend on the local economy, and are nonexistent at worst...insecure at best. Do YOU want to email or Skype your spouse when the Taliban can monitor what you say?
If the paramilitary spouse is wounded, chances are that only short-term care will be provided. The family gets to pay for long-term care and therapy.
And one day, there may be a telegram, or a visit from a colleague, saying that the welcome-home party can be canceled. The body - if recovered - may or may be not be flown home by the employer.
And you won't want to be asked to identify it. Please trust me on this.
There may be minimal death benefits, if the employer has a policy in place. But it's seldom enough to for a family to start a new life.
But death is better than capture, because the even though our present enemies don't follow the Geneva Convention, they do realize the value of captured uniformed troops as bargaining chips - or hostages, if you prefer.
Not so the contractor. They're captured, and used for sport.
So please, send up a prayer for these individuals and their families. They're doing what they can, for low pay, to make a hurting world just a little bit better, and the risks they run give the word 'exposure' a whole new meaning.