I read a lot about how the US military is now used as essentially a mercenary army in the service of business. I don’t disagree with that but there’s more to it. I’ve got some thoughts on it.
These kids are trying to do the right thing and I want them to and I want them to come home and marry and have beautiful children and make America a better place. I know you do too.
You know, I had a conversation about this sort of thing a couple of years ago. He and I had both been involved in Iraq and Afghanistan to differing degrees and we’d both done our time in the sandbox for different purposes. We both felt it had all gone to shit with a very few exceptions. We talked about Iraq and our willingness to get involved even though we disagreed with the entire conflict. It was our intent to fix it, seriously. It was our intent to get in and pull a win out of the absolute failure that was the war in Iraq. Talking deeper it was about WW2. For American boys everything having to do with the military is about WW2. My grandfather was a veteran, flew bomber sorties over Europe as a Navigator. Was given the Bronze Star with a V (that’s for valor for those that don’t know). My dad volunteered at the tail end of Vietnam when he hit 18 and was trained as a Huey Pilot and was a Warrant Officer. At the end of training he fell out of the back of a truck during training and broke his foot (he was born clubfooted and so his surgically altered feet were already sensitive). That kept him from being able to deploy and so instead he went to Congo (then Zaire) as a missionary. I was in Yonkers, NY, just north of the city on Sept 11th 2001 and, at the time, I was in school getting a Masters Degree. I sent my resume in to the government a few weeks later and they hired me. I’m 35 now and I know the difference between a bildungs roman story and reality but at the time I did not, nor does any boy at 18 or 23. We’re all trying to prove that we’ve got what it takes, that we have virtue, that we’ve carried the torch and the light has not gone out. Jesus, it makes me weep to think about. We all wanted to do the best thing we possibly could so that our fathers would know and so that somehow their fathers would know. I’m aware that that’s not how it works but, for me at least, I wanted to try to be a hero in the way I thought my grandfather was and in the way I’ve always felt my father was.
It’s the old that get rich off of young blood and it’s such a terrible waste and betrayal. It’s the worst way to discover how the world works. You believe you’re getting involved to save lives and even the field so that we can make things work out but that’s not what’s happening and in the end you just have to shake your head and take your leave. I love those boys and I was one of them. I miss being with them. I miss that naive, ignorant, blessed hope.
Happy Memorial Day to all of you. So many of you were and are the best of my generation. And to the ones that came home and couldn’t stand it. I’m so goddamned sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I’d take that shit on me if I could. I’d have stopped you if I could have. I’d have taken you in. Howl seems more appropriate than it ever did in school.