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.


Okay, maybe “utter success” is a (big) stretch. But a funny thing happens when members of Congress actually craft a solution to the seemingly impossible: they earn the confidence of thier countrymen and women. (Nancy Pelosi are you listening?) A New York Times/CNN poll today found broad public support for Senate’s immigration bill, sponsored in part by the ever prescient John McCain.

Over at his official website, John McCain skewers seven festering myths about the bill. May they R.I.P.

Finally, in another all too rare act of bipartisanship — for the good of the country instead of the political coffers — Congress passed a spending bill for the war. Did the Democrats gain anything by thier previous poisonous posturing? Not if this Yahoo News headline is a harbinger: “Congress Bows to Bush, Oks Iraq Funds.”

Redefining debt

Satirist Mark Januzelli’s rendition of economic policy solving.

…so observes New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks, when cross-referencing the Founding Father’s reverence for virtue and civic duty with the bill’s portal to good citizenship. He writes:

Aspiring immigrants would learn, from an early age, what sort of person the U.S. is looking for. In a break from the current system, this bill awards visas on a merit-based points system that rewards education, English proficiency, agricultural work experience, home ownership and other traits. Potential immigrants would understand that the U.S. is looking for people who can be self-sufficient from the start, and they’d mold themselves to demonstrate that ability.

However, the bill’s authors (applying the skeptical zeal of our forefathers) don’t rest the success of immigration reform solely on goodwill or good conscience. Mechanisms for law and order are woven into its 1,000 page core:

The Senate bill reduces that incentive for lawlessness. If you think it is light on enforcement, read the thing. It would not only beef up enforcement on the border, but would also create an electronic worker registry. People who overstay their welcome could forfeit their chance of being regularized forever.

To read Brooks’ entire and enlightening column, New York Times subscriber’s can click here.

From the Deseret Morning News, a mainstream paper with consistently conservative and well-reasoned opinion pieces:

Harry Truman coined the phrase “Do nothing Congress.” But if the wobbly coalition holds between liberal and conservative lawmakers and keeps the new immigration reform bill on track, this could be the “Git ‘er done Congress.”
Few social issues bedevil American politicians, law enforcement officials, employers and social activists more than that of finding a way to deal with the tidal wave of illegal immigrants. Now, at last, the train seems to be leaving the station.
Citizens of the United States, please, don’t derail the thing.
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall. The bill is not perfect, but it is passable.
Pass it.

First of all, detractors should keep in mind that to be here illegally is not a felony, though the $5,000 fee being imposed on illegal immigrants is felony level punishment.
Make them pay, then let them stay.
To do otherwise would be to callously tighten the thumbscrews on suffering families, jittery employers, exhausted immigration officers and distracted lawmakers.
The practical reasons for the bill hold true: America needs the workers. Deporting everybody would be an impossible undertaking at an impossible cost and would be a fool’s errand.
This bill isn’t amnesty. It’s more like probation. Contribute to the welfare of the nation and you get a “stay out of jail” card — a “Z” visa. Mess up and you go home or go to the calaboose. And the borders will not be as friendly should you decided to try to slip back in.
If illegal immigrants want to become U.S. citizens or get resident cards, they need to return to their native lands and apply — and that goes for Chileans, Cambodians, Mexicans, Dominicans and the blue men of Morocco.
The bill is imperfect. It winks at family ties in favor of job skills. It gives a break to people who have broken the law. But just the fact it is making everybody annoyed means it may have a chance.
Middle ground is never easy to find. This bill comes close.
Congress needs to pass it now or spend the next two years wishing it had.

John McCain didn’t earn the nickname “Maverick” for playing nice at patty cake. Instead, he earned his firebrad reputation by taking on the status-quo (aka: political safety zone) to do what’s right for America. This time, McCain is facing down the contentious issue of immigration reform. He’s moving forward now, despite the risks to his presidential bid, because the problem can’t wait for future generations to solve. But this time, he’s not alone.

Here’s what conservative Republican leaders across the nation are saying about McCain’s bipartisan bill:

Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT): “It is clear that comprehensive immigration reform is needed to address the national security and economic realities currently facing our country. For the past several months, both Republicans and Democrats have worked to find common ground on critical immigration issues, and I am pleased that an agreement was reached today. I continue to review the details of the legislation and look forward to the debate next week,” (Sen. Bennett, press release 5/17/07)

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA):“ [T]here is no guaranteed pathway to citizenship for anybody in this bill. But anybody who is going to become a citizen is now going to have to have a real appreciation for what it means to be an American, and why it’s important to be an American.” (Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Press Conference, 5/17/07)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN): The need to secure our borders, and to have a real security infrastructure in place is critical … I believe the agreement is far stronger than the bill the Senate produced last year. (Sen. Mitch McConnell, Release, 5/17/07)

Senate GOP Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (R-AZ): “…[I]t represents the best opportunity that we have in a bipartisan way to do something about this problem, and if we had not gotten together as Republicans and Democrats to develop this bipartisan consensus we can be assured that there would not be a bill passed this year and probably not next year. (Sen. Jon Kyl, Press Conference, 5/17/07)

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “We have found a broad agreement that can be the foundation for a meaningful change and for the security of our borders and respect for our immigration process.” (Sen. Johnny Isakson, Press Conference, 5/17/07)

As part of an interview for US News and World Report, Thomas J. O’Halloran photographed Lt. Comdr. John S. McCain on April 24, 1973. The photo was taken one month after McCain’s release from a five-year stay at the “Hanoi Hilton.” Note how little his intensity has changed in the thirtysome years since.

Lt Cdr John S. McCain, April 24, 1973

Photo Credit: O’Halloran/Library of Congress via pingnews at flickr