A little more than a year ago, my youngest son, then 19, approached me about his intention to enlist in the US Army. My political views regarding foreign policy are no secret and he might have expected me to react unfavorably to his decision. I did not. It was his decision; I did and still do support it. I support all the men and women who have chosen this course – it is a noble profession and one that is vital to our national security. Those who sent our armed forces unnecessarily into harm’s way, however, are much less than noble and they did not have my support – and I was not alone. The idea that one cannot support our troops without supporting the administration that sent many of them to their deaths for nothing is ludicrous. Yes, Dick, I’m talking about you.
So I support my son and what he is doing with his life. I admire him – I don’t think I could have made that decision when I was his age and I am too old to make it now. Things were much different in the post-Vietnam era; I did not really understand what all the fuss was about. It seemed to me that even though there was tremendous political and social upheaval over the Vietnam War, it shouldn’t be taken out on the troops. They surely had no choice, especially since the vast majority of them were drafted. It left a sour taste in my pre-teen mouth, one that became even more pronounced with the Watergate scandal that soon followed. I was entirely disgusted with the government and many of the "protesters" – there was no way I was going to join in any form.
There were a number of lessons learned from Vietnam, not the least of which is to respect those that protect this nation, even if the war they are fighting is a fool’s errand. Iraq was such a war. Unnecessary, costly in terms of the lives lost and those permanently altered and because it diverted attention and resources away from our true enemies, it is still unclear what we gained. Democracy in the Middle East? Perhaps for the moment. Eradication of a tyrant? Yes, but are we the world’s exterminators? If so, there is so much left to be done and this nation is not too keen on consistency. But throughout it all my support was firmly behind our troops while consistently critical of those who sent them to places we had no business being.
Now our efforts have been refocused on the true threats to our security, although it remains to be seen whether we can affect any real change in Afghanistan/Pakistan. At least the threats there are real and our presence there is, in my measured opinion, necessary. My son is there and it worries me every day. When he enlisted about a year ago, we both knew that he was likely to get deployed to Afghanistan and I accepted it as best I could. I still do, but it has now been three plus days since I have heard anything from him. Due to the communication technology that is now ubiquitous even in the Afghan wasteland, I have been able to stay in touch, at least indirectly, through a number of channels, primarily Facebook and Myspace, but also via cellular technology.
But for the past few days, there has been nothing. I am not one to jump to conclusions; indeed, the possibilities are heavily loaded towards the “it’s nothing” side of the spectrum. But still, and despite all the modern warfare technology he has at his disposal, he is in a situation where large numbers of people want to kill him. And his job is to stop them. This is a job that, like only a few others, involves direct confrontation with death on a regular basis. It is hard to rationalize that away. He is smart, well trained and well equipped; the odds are still in his favor, but it has been three plus days.
I need to hear from him…
I heard from my son tonight and he is fine - this is obviously going to take some getting used to.
Mike, you speak from your heart. As a parent, I can only imagine what this is like for you. Your son has courage and I hope that you hear from him soon. More importantly, I hope all the best for him for the duration of his time there.
You're a better person than me. I enlisted in the Marines at 17, saw enough stuff going on in boot camp to know I wanted nothing to do with it and got out. Every military pamphlet that comes in our house goes straight to the trash. I told my son I did not want him to enlist in the military, not because I don't believe in it, or honor the men and women who serve, but because the people who call the shots could send my child to a needless, senseless death. I'd much rather my son have a say over whether he risks his life for a cause, not just going somewhere because he was ordered to. That said, if he truly wanted to go into the military and believed that good or bad, right or wrong, the military has more good and purpose to it than bad, and he truly wanted to be a part of it, I would support him. I just want him fully aware that politicians have too much say and their reasoning isn't always sound.
You are an amazing man, Mike. The more I get to know you the more I see just how true that is. I can only imagine the thoughts that consumed your mind while waiting for news and only hearing silence aginst a canvas of white noise. I enjoyed your writing and was thuroughly impressed with your bio. Who would have thunk it? I will be back periodically to check in on ya. Have a blessed day.
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