I have a younger cousin that graduated from High School last May. A few weeks later, he packed up his bags and headed off to Marine boot camp. He, like many other thousands of kids across the country, is headed off to what he considers to be a chance at a better life for himself, in many ways. Traditionally, a member of the Armed Forces has any and every right to hold his or her head high. These people, regardless of their intentions, make the choice to stand up and defend this country whenever the country is in need. They sign their lives away to protecting the United States, and dedicate their time in service to their country. It may be one of the most honored positions a person can take. In this war we are in, however, our country is making a mockery of the dedication that these people have to serve and protect our country. With this war being fought, our men and women are being used – not to defend our country, but to weaken it by creating more enemies. It is sad to see this happening, since these men and women are taught to have the highest ethical and moral standards, yet they are being used in the most heinous ways. When I first learned of my cousin joining the Marines, I was devastated. I had many questions, but they wouldn’t be answered until he graduated from boot camp, and came home before being stationed for further training. This past week, he did exactly that, and today we held a celebration and going away party for him. Today I wanted to get answers from him, as to why he decided to join the Armed Forces in a time to where they are being unjustly used. I wouldn’t denounce it, or give much of my opinion; I simply wanted to know his state of mind. I already came to an assumption as to why he chose this path. He had a very turbulent childhood. He spent his adolescent and teenage years living with our grandmother, in a rural town in East Texas. This town is the exact type of town that the military looks for when signing new recruits. It is a small town filled with blue collar workers. It is still the norm to get out of High School and start your life, without the second thought of continuing your education. It is also the type of town that a young mind could easily be impressioned with promises of college, a good career, and more than a simple small town could offer, by way of the Armed Forces. It was exactly this that I feared had cajoled him into joining the military. An escape. In small towns like this, that is the only promise that is necessary. When I got a chance, I sat down and talked to my cousin. I asked him about boot camp. I asked him about where he would be stationed for further training. I then asked him what had been on my mind for months. What made him join the military? He started off with the typical explanation of getting a better chance, an opportunity for school, and training for a good career. He then went into an even deeper tangent as to what the military service symbolized for him. He spoke of every single one of those aspects that the military should stand for – Honor, Discipline, Pride, Service. He felt that, as a citizen of this country, he owed a little of his life and dedication to protecting it. Now, I know he may have picked some of this up in boot camp, but I really believe that he felt that it was a duty for him. He wants to be serve, and I can’t argue with that. Regardless of how I stand on our country’s issues – regardless of what I think of what I believe to be almost a suicide mission with the way our military is being treated, I simply cannot argue with his simple, pure belief that he is doing the right thing. We then started talking about what he would be doing next, and if he was worried about combat. He then told me that he would go back for basic training, and then would be stationed to a base. He did not fear combat, as they were told that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to see combat for at least a year, possibly two. With those words, and that cheer and optimism in his eyes, I was instantly crushed. The only thing I could think of was that he was being lied to by the very same people he entrusted with his life. These very same people that were teaching him about honor, loyalty, discipline, pride – everything he yearned for. I then started thinking about the thousands of other people who were probably told the same thing. The thousands of people who were likely told a similar story, and are no longer even alive to talk about it. It absolutely made me sick to my stomach. My cousin, however, is not stupid, and as naïve as I thought. He still knew the possibility existed, regardless of what he was told. He worried about the rising threat in Iran, but still remained hopeful. It really made me want to cry. He’s in now, though, and there is no turning back now. It really is true that you don’t put a lot of thought into things until they hit you personally. I have always been against this war, and always have hoped for an end to it all – a withdrawal of our troops before more casualties pile up. However, it has never been a personal battle until today. I hope he doesn’t see combat, more than anything else right now, and I hope, more than ever before, that our country soon sees what they are doing to all of us, and ends this stupid fight.
September 29, 2007