A friend of mine, actually a Marine veteran, has returned to college and just so happens to be going to school with his almost 20-year-old college sophomore son. Over the summer, we had a number of conversations about the fact that his son would not be returning to school this fall. He had enlisted in the Armed Services and was going to be sent to Iraq. I was horrified, but my friend waived his own veterans status and defended his son’s choice, almost with a vengeance. His son was going to serve his country – yada yada yada… the whole party line. He read me the riot act almost on a daily basis. My answer was always an appropriate “Poo!”
I am a child of the 60s. My friend is much younger and does not remember Vietnam. He served in the Marines during peace time. He doesn’t know a thing about wars that are not in defense of one’s country. He can’t imagine that his government would deliberately send his child to be killed for no reason other than self-interest on the part of a few so-called leaders. But I remember. I remember Vietnam as if it was yesterday.
Then, right in the middle of registration, my friend’s son came to him and told him he really wanted to stay in school – that the only reason he had enlisted was because he felt as if his school expenses were a drain on his parents’ budget. He asked his dad to help him get signed up with ROTC and out of having to report for Basic Training.
It took my friend almost 3 days, working day and night, to get all of the forms filled out and get them taken to the proper places for signatures and validation, but he did it. He got his child enrolled in school and then fell completely apart. As it turns out, he had never wanted his child to go to Iraq, but had made all of those mean speeches in defense of what he thought his child wanted.
Now, free from having to defend a bad point, my friend has declared that this will not happen again. His son is his only child and, as a former Marine, he will not tolerate his child being killed in battle for any reason other than in defense of his country. Since this war does not even come close to meeting that criteria, he says he will prevent his child from going into the Armed Services, if he tries it again, no matter what it takes to stop him.
Old veterans are starting to talk around the coffee pot at the local convenience store. Their assessment of this situation is not good and, now that my friend’s son isn’t going to Iraq, he is joining in with the other veterans. Not one is in favor of this war or of losing even one more American soldier to it. It is absolutely amazing the difference that just a few days and the safety of one’s child can make in the rhetoric that comes out of the mouth of a parent.