November 27, 2005

OP-ED WOES

God bless the Stars and Stripes. For being a military newspaper, I'm often stunned at how many anti-war, anti-Bush opinion columns they print. I know I don't want to read that garbage, but maybe someone does, and they provide the service, even when it makes our president and our military look bad. Usually I just read the online version, so I don't bother with the AP junk, but occasionally I'll come across a hard copy of the paper and want to throw up, as I did when I read this piece, in which the author muses what his life would be like if he'd had to join the military...

What if, for instance, my parents hadn't gone into debt to provide me with a private-school education and the benefits it affords? What if, instead, I had taken the path followed by many in my hometown and pursued my American dream through the military? And what if I was writing these words not from the comfort of my office but from a forward operating base somewhere in the Sunni Triangle?

Perhaps this all can be written off as a neurotic intellectual exercise. But the persistent rumors of a draft (unlikely as one might be) do little to reassure.

Yes, many people join the military instead of having mommy and daddy foot their bills. They become adults at age 18 and deploy to the Middle East where their buddies' lives are in their hands as they sit on overnight guard duty at the Tigris River...instead of kickin' it at the frat house drinking Red Bull and vodka until they puke all over some girl and pass out in the bushes. Which life choice makes you more of a man?

Oh, the draft. It's comin' folks. Been comin' for three years. Except there's gonna be a drawdown of troops next year. So when are we all getting drafted?

Now, I'm sure a fair number of those in the military enlisted out of a lack of other options. I know full well that relatively few in my generation buy into the "for flag and country" bit, and that my sense of patriotic guilt would probably make for a good joke or two in the service. And the honest truth is that nothing less than a full-fledged draft could get me to say goodbye to my wife's puppy-dog brown eyes and put on a uniform.

Maybe I just lack the conviction of the soldiers deployed in Iraq. Or maybe they've just lacked my good fortune. Which of the two is the case, I'm not quite sure.

Actually, I know quite a few soldiers who joined "for flag and country", and I know many who joined just because they wanted a job but end up staying for their country. My husband called the Army a "labor of love" the other day; he could get out and see what other jobs he could find, but he stays out of a sense of purpose and duty.

And, yes, I bet many of them would think you're a tool.

You probably do indeed lack conviction. Not everyone considers it the Worst Possible Thing In The World to get deployed. Some people, my husband included, think it's the most important thing they've done with their lives, and though they don't necessarily cherish the thought of deploying for another year and missing out on their own wives' puppy-dog eyes, they are more than willing to do whatever it takes to see Iraq succeed.

At the very least, when I read about the next soldier killed in combat, I'll make sure to take five minutes out of my privileged day to wonder: There but for the grace of God go I, drunk and naked, screaming bloody suicide at the thought of going back to Iraq.

And that is precisely why we don't want a draft.

There's nothing wrong with not wanting to go to Iraq. It's a normal, natural feeling. But I'm sick and tired of these crap-ass op-eds looking down their noses at soldiers. A fancy-pants degree doesn't make you better than someone who joined the Army. Can you repair track on a tank? Can you accurately fire a 50-cal? Can you make a delicious sugar cookie out of the remnants of your MRE? Oh, you can write. Judging from MilBlogs, so can most soldiers who don't have the "good fortune" of a "private-school education and the benefits it affords". They're writing and selling books, in addition to being mechanics, marksmen, chemists, nurses, and diplomats.

And I'm not convinced many of them would want to trade places with you.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:54 AM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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1 Interesting article and counter post where you take the guy apart piece by piece. To be brutally honest, I don't want to go to Iraq although my command's asked me if I want to volunteer a number of times. I'm 43, I fulfilled my military obligation in 1989...although I didn't get out until 1992. I spend the remaining 12 years of my 20 in the IRR never having been called up. Last year I was unceremoniously tossed out of the IRR for not having completed Command and General Staff College to make me competitive for promotion to LTC and continued service. And actually, I was fine with that. I have a new life, a new wife, and two wonderful daughters. My days of 'walking the line' are over and I'm damned glad there are young men and women willing to take my place....just as I took the place of the Vietnam era veterans in the early 80s. I agree with you that the author of this piece underestimates and doesn't understand the mindset that draw those of that serve into the military. Some of us do it for the benefits...can't argue that the military has a pretty sweet benefits package that you're never going to find on the "outside." Others do it for the education, experience and discipline that the military provides. There's nothing wrong with a kid out of high school making a decision to go out and see the world with one of the branches of the American military before buckling down and going to college, if that's where they're headed eventually. I have to admit, if I'm presented two candidates for a job position and they're exactly the same right down the line, the applicant with a military pedigree is going to get the job every time! In any case, I've gotten out of hand yet again...posting like this was my blog. I know, I know...just the comments, MajorDad! See you on the high ground...and thank you for your family's service! MajorDad1984

Posted by: MajorDad1984 at November 27, 2005 10:55 AM (tdEnf)

2 I have no patience for people who bad-mouth the military. Usually, and that is probably the case with this author, they have never personally met a soldier...just seen one on TV. I love it how he speculates about soldiers, speculates about their motivations, and you just know, that he has never really talked with one. Oh, the ignorance. I'll make sure to take five minutes out of my privileged day to wonder: There but for the grace of God go I, ignorant and haughty, screaming bloody suicide at the thought of being so cowardly and misled.

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at November 27, 2005 11:00 AM (cxkhg)

3 Sarah, Pretty good job at slapping the idiot. I bet you are a Whack A Mole Queen with the keyboard. Good job, gal. You said it better than the rest of us can. Subsunk

Posted by: Subsunk at November 27, 2005 07:21 PM (SBriA)

4 Hey Sarah, Man, I've read your blog a while (lurked I guess?) and never commented, but now after reading this, I want to find you and hug you. This made my day!

Posted by: Christy at November 27, 2005 10:33 PM (FcWi1)

5 What if, for instance, my parents hadn't gone into debt to provide me with a private-school education and the benefits it affords? Well, he could have got a part-time job and worked his way through community college. He could have got a job that doesn't require a college degree. (They do exist. I don't have a degree, and I've never wanted for employment.) He could have... lots of things. But yeah, the killer line: There but for the grace of God go I, drunk and naked, screaming bloody suicide at the thought of going back to Iraq. He'd be peeling potatoes at boot camp for the duration with that attitude.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at November 28, 2005 12:57 AM (RbYVY)

6 I've seen this article before and yes that's EXACTLY why I don't want the draft. I would try to get there myself because I wouldn't want this man watching the six of my husband. So he can stay in his namby-pamby protected world while those that serve keep him and his private education a safe place to sleep at night. HH6

Posted by: Houshold6 at November 28, 2005 06:33 AM (T+Tkq)

7 Well said!

Posted by: Vonn at November 28, 2005 03:29 PM (dEgRi)

8 . . . most soldiers who don't have the "good fortune" of a "private-school education and the benefits it affords". Why not have the best of both worlds? I'm pre-9/11, but in our student group, we have a growing number of OIF and OEF vets. In 2002, our president was earning his Bronze Star with 1st Bat in Afghanistan at the Ambush of Takur Ghar. Eric Chen Vice President U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University

Posted by: Eric at November 28, 2005 07:18 PM (8g/Ur)

9 There were times in Iraq that I got pretty disgusted with the editorial content of S&S. A lot of us said we'd stop reading it if it weren't the only daily paper available. We constantly questioned "whose side are they on?" I've turned down better paying jobs to return to the Army and stay Army. There is a sense of purpose that I can't find in the civilian world. Randy

Posted by: Raven1 at November 28, 2005 10:05 PM (N1rEE)

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