From the mailbag

I thought this was worth sharing. (Minor identifying details changed or excised to protect everyone’s anonymity.)

I read your blog today about the Marine recruiter who met with the resistant (yet supportive!?!) parents.

Let me tell you about my 21 year old son John. We live in a fairly affluent area and both my wife and myself are educated professionals. John has always been a sensitive progressive, involved in his gay/straight student alliance, formally protested the unfairness of the state’s standardized testing, did volunteer work in the community, etc. He is also a worldly kid having lived in or visited great Britain (3 times), Israel, Germany, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada, and Brazil (mostly on his own!). We as a family saw the Iraq war as the Administration’s attempt to exercise hegemony in a resource rich and politically strategic area of the world. None of us believed that the war had anything to do with the so called “war on terror.” In December of 2004 John told us that he had been talking to an Army recruiter about enlisting. I wasn’t too surprised, as he was uncertain about when he wanted to attend college and had talked about the military as an option. I cautioned him to be very careful and not to make any commitments. I was concerned that they would “promise him the moon” and I told him that if it was not officially in a contract promises were worthless. He understood and with open eyes, he joined. He joined as an airborne infantryman. He knew that his choice would take him to war. He explained to me that he thought we as a nation had made serious mistakes in Iraq, that he felt as though he could help, he said that the military needed more soldiers who were open minded and could deal in a positive way with people who were different from themselves.

In June all of my family went to see John graduate from Infantry training. Each of us to a person, my daughter, my sister, my parents are against this war, yet we were there to support a kid who thinks he can make a difference. As I sat in the stands at the graduation ceremony and chatted with the family and friends of the of the other soldiers something struck me. These were not the sons of the cheering pundits, the affluent neo-con ideologues, the comfortable pro-war suburbanites. The sons of people who most vociferously declared the righteous cause of the war, who branded dissent as treasonous and dissenters as not worthy to be called Americans were not there. Why join when the kids of your car mechanic and gardener will do it for you? Why have them sign up when you really do get tears at the sound of Lee Greenwood and have a yellow ribbon magnet? Why encourage them to enlist when you can ride on the backs of those who believe that they by joining can make a difference? As I sat in the stands I looked into the faces of all those going to war, who joined out of a sense of duty, for opportunity, or to “make something” of themselves. I hope to God that we give these men and women what they deserve. I am not speaking of equipment, training, and pay, but of a truly grateful country and government who will not waste their lives and idealism in cavalier wars of imperialism.