"I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine." -- John Adams
A few years back, I was walking across the food court at the mall when a couple of military recruiters offered to buy me lunch. I didn't have time to eat, but I did take a little time to chat. Long story short, I said no thanks to their offers of professional training and my student loans paid off, and they had a good laugh when they found out I was over 30. Not quite their demographic. Because they asked, I also said I didn't much like the way Bush was eyeing Iraq, and that I would no more join the military right now than I would get in a car with a drunk behind the wheel. And then I thanked them for their service.
There was definitely a moral element to my refusal, but I had selfish motives as well. I had a house, a good paying and interesting job, a burgeoning relationship, and all sorts of comfortable reasons not to uproot myself in service of my country. That's probably the main reason they target guys in their teens and twenties, not their thirties. Well, that and the fact that we're creaky, old, and out of shape.
But I owe a great deal of that comfort to military service. If my dad hadn't learned computers in the Army, lord knows what he'd have ended up doing with his life, but he certainly wouldn't have met my Mom, a fellow geek, studying them in college once he got out. On the flip side, though, if my grandfather's family hadn't convinced him to stay home during World War Two (they needed him on the farm), who knows what might have happened?
This was meant to be a quick "Thanks for serving" shout out to the friends, family, and strangers who've served in the military, but it got complicated, didn't it? Damn.
Still, isn't that the way it ought to be? A boy leaves home and comes back a man. A man goes off to war and comes back changed, or doesn't come back at all. We all treasure our freedom, but those who protect it have given theirs up. And then there are those whose values preclude war, and for whom refusing to serve requires the same strength of character. This is complicated stuff, and not to be dealt with lightly.
But yesterday was Memorial Day, when we as a nation celebrate the warriors (peaceful and otherwise) who made us what we are. Granted, we typically celebrate them by grilling hot dogs and buying half-price electronics, but that's just part of the wonderful silliness that is America.
So, to my Dad, my uncles, Billie, and a whole damn bunch of other people with serious guts: Thanks.