When the Twin Towers fell, my first-born son was a freshman in college. On Thursday of that week, President Bush gave a speech in which he stated that the war ahead was going to be a long one. He was correct. In 2013, my son, just turned 30, married, and with a new son of his own, went to Afghanistan with his National Guard unit. He was medevac'ed home two months later after being wounded in a rocket attack.
Today is my youngest (adopted) son's 11th birthday. I bought him a used video game system, and he and his buddy Jacob are in the next room playing Halo 3.
How do I break the news to him?
Son, there is a war going on, and it will still be going on when you are a grown man. Your father, your uncles, your grandfathers, and your great grandfather all wore the uniform. Because of that tradition, the odds are good that you will be in uniform.Here's the funny bit: it won't bother him. He's 11 years old, and to him, the idea of being in the Army is all gravy. He adores his uncle Jordan, he adores me, and he wants to be just like us; and to him, it's just a great adventure. I get that; that's the way I thought about it, too, when I was his age, and that's the way I thought about it on the day I walked into the recruiter's office.
But: is that all I can do? Is my only weapon against the terrorists to have sons. love them, raise them to be men of honor, and send them off to another country with a rifle in their hands? Here are some of the years that members of my family answered the call: 1917. 1943. 1944. 1951. 1964. 1966. 1968. 1972. 1993. 2011. Is preparing Kenneth to step forward sometime around 2024 the ONLY thing I can do to bring peace? Must I also be prepared to send off grandsons Heath (almost three) and Joshua (one and a half) as well?
Dammit, that CAN'T be all. I'm 62 years old, and my body is no good in a combat zone any more, but surely there is some rationale exercise of power I can make in order to bring an end to this incessant war. Other people, just as driven by a sense of duty and a history of service as I am, have paid an even greater price. Is it for NOTHING? Is there no end to this? At some point, I do believe I might be willing to support genocide, if the alternative is to continue the mindless expenditure of the lives of my sons.