For the love of country

28May07

Senator John McCain and I have something in common: our 19 year-old sons recently joined the military. His son, the Marines. Mine, the Army National Guard.

I was not surprised at the choice. Like young Jimmy McCain, my son grew up in a family with a long military tradition. For the McCain’s, their Naval tradition stretches back for generations. In my military family-tree, which improbably includes a grandmother and great-grandmother, relatives have served in the US Army, National Guard, US Air Force and British Army for more than a hundred years without skipping a generation. No doubt, the armed services are a familiar and time-tested path for these two young men.

Our sons are not alone in their initial foray into adulthood. Now in his specialty training, my son is joined by quite the cast of characters. These are the young men and women we send to war — the wars we agree upon and the ones we don’t. No matter. They raised their right hand and promised to fight for our country in both the best and worst of times. They are worth getting to know.

Young Soldiers share a laugh the day before basic training graduationThey are likewise the stuff of which good war stories, even legends, are made*: Blaylock – the Loudmouth Jokester who equally annoys and entertains his fellow troops; Garcia – the Good Son already making plans for marriage and drill sergeant school; Oldham – the Platoon Sage (at age 27) and quintessential Mormon (blond, sweet-natured, fully confident in himself and his faith); Johnson – the Not-Too-Bright laundry-tech with an all-time low ASVAB score but with enough tenacity to compensate; Prianski – the Smart Guy who solves problems from the rear; Anstead – the Fat-Kid now proudly thin; Rodriquez – Know-It-All with the picture-perfect girlfriend; Otao – the girl from Samoa and the Girl Next Store; and Fox – how would one describe Fox? I’d guess one might describe him as the Quiet Kid, the sleeper who has a lot of verve once you get him out of his foxhole.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the armed services have dropped their standards. In fact, the situation is reversed. Society has dropped its standards and the military is boosting these kids up. No doubt, each one of these young people is a better human for going through their military training than before. They are a remarkably good-looking bunch – fit, bright-eyed, sincere, respectful. (In a surprising return to 20th century pleasantness, my son has learned to generously use the word “ma’am.”) In a crowd, one could not differentiate between their diverse socio-economic backgrounds. In uniform, they are the beacons of America’s hope, integrity and future.

Why do these young people join the military, especially when they are certain to deploy into the dangers of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq or Afghanistan? Surely, their motivations vary widely. But at the root, I suspect, lies a core belief in the principles of our great nation and their obligation to protect them.

May we take today to thank them for their service and remember those who are no long with us to thank.

For more on young people and the war, read Lt. Jason Nichols’ essay “Appeal for Courage” and journalist and former Ranger Brian Mockenhaupt’s article “The Army We Have” (Atlantic Monthly subscribers). To see a video of John McCain’s Memorial Day message, click here.

* The Soldier’s names have been changed for this posting.

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2 Responses to “For the love of country”

  1. Your words are sweet music to my ears. Your son’s are excellent exalmples of all the strong quiet goodness of the American spirit. I pray for your brave son’s safe return and gratefully thank you, the parents, who raised such fine young Americans.

    Sometimes I get a little down seeing the Washington Crowd in action. It is sometime discouraging, but then you and your family, and others like you, make a great balance. God bless you and your family, and God bless America. Thank you for your honored service to our country. Best regards, Lake

  2. Real Americans love the military. Sounds like you have a very brave son.

    The proud son of a Vietnam Vet,

    Steve


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