Saturday, March 17, 2007

Semper Fi


As I drove past the Marine Barracks while going to meet a friend for lunch, I was reminded of a feeling of patriotism that my family has not known first-hand in recent years.

A big burly somewhat older guy emerged from a large car parked next to the curb. The car had a DV license plate and a sticker in the window that said “Served in Combat”. It was adorned in other ways to make it quite clear that this Marine’s life still evolved about the fact that he had served his country, probably in the Viet Nam War.

He walked around the car and watched as a young man in fatigues approached. He raised his hand in a salute to his son who then returned the salute. It was a moment that said so much about this family that I will never know.

My father was proud to have served in World War II and in the Korean War. But sometime after that point, serving in the military went out of vogue for most of the upper middle class. My husband and his friends and all my guy friends at school prayed for a high draft number and made contingency plans to go to Canada or grad school. My son never gave so much as a thought to enlisting in the service.

The reason for this shift all has to do with our growing discontent with wars for the wrong reasons. We live in a country that uses threats of terrorism to control a public that is too uninformed to question what they are told.

But it was obvious there is still a multi-generational feeling of willingness to serve, whatever the fight, whatever the stakes.

My parting thought for this family was that I hoped that young man would come home from wherever his service took him with all his limbs and senses intact. I wondered if his son too would be a Marine.

8 Comments:

Blogger Nea said...

I enjoyed this post, I too have a son who is a Marine. Almost every man in my Mother's family served in one branch of the service, we we have a long line of military persons in our family. And to talk bad about our country will get you a quick retort, "if you think somewhere else is a better place to live, by all means, go there." They all saw what it was like, first hand to live under iron rule.....and fight for the freedom of others. For some reason a whole generation, forgot, or just never knew, what WWII was about.....but they are living the good life from the fighting of others. Just imagine if Hitler had WON the war. People forget how fragile freedoms can be, and sit back complacently, enjoying freedoms that were fought for with blood. All through history, freedom has come with a price. When my kids and I were in the airport last time, a whole group of Marines were on deployment. We stopped, saluted, and began applauding them, the whole crowd, joined in, it was moving, and brought tears to many eyes. These young men are willingly (there is NO draft) fighting for their country and deserve our honor and respect.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I well up every time I see families waiting for returning soldiers, the kids in airports on R&R, the boys in the bars ready to be deployed. (There are a lot of Marines in my 'hood.) I fully respect the sacrifice that they are making. I just wish they didn't have to do it.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Nea -- What a thoughtful comment from someone who has first-hand experience. I salute you and your family. But I must confess that I feel angry when I hear of more troops being deployed to Iraq to fight a war that I never supported. I feel angry every day when I hear of more American casualties in this war that is impossible to win. I am all for protecting American freedoms, but unfortunately the last few years have seen American freedoms taken away as our Constitutional rights are challenged. This is still the greatest country in the world, but I want to be proud as we interact with the rest of the world and know we are doing the right things for the right reasons. These feelings in no way diminish my respect for those who choose to serve, like your son.

Kristin -- Who knows, you may have met the kid I saw today in your neighborhood bar. They must have such mixed feelings of pride, fear, and anticipation as they prepare for what lies ahead.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I'm kind of glad the question of whether to enlist and fight a major war more or less skipped our generation. I'm not that brave. My husband would probably have signed up due to his sense of duty and obligation if it was a war he believed in, but would have likely be used in some medical capacity.

All the stories I hear from my parents, make me extremely thankful we didn't have to go through that.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- I just found myself thinking about what I personally would have done had I been in the position of having to decide whether to fight or not. If I thought the survival of my country was truly on the line, I would probably have volunteered or done whatever I could in a support role, much as people back home did during WW II. However, the wars starting with Viet Nam have not been nearly as clearcut in terms of what we were fighting for or hoping to win.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous David said...

My father and all my uncles volunteered to fight in WWII. That was such a different scenario than wars like Vietnam or Iraq. The whole western world was threatened then.

But, the highest form of patriotism is not to support your country's presidential policies even if they are clearly wrong or worse, when the president and his administration have lied to the American people and tricked us about the rationale for invading other countries (WMD anyone) and intervening in a civil war or starting one (Iraq).

No one should have to sacrifice their life for a war that we have no reason to fight and which causes the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. The higher form of patriotism is to protest against such abuse of power.

12:02 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Like david says, WWII was a different scenario; Note how long it took the US to get involved in that War; but when we did, the whole country was involved and the motives and objectives were clear.
That is not what we have going on today in Iraq. We jumped to conclusions based on bias and fabrications into a mission that does not compare to WWII. We have no business there, or anywhere, trying to build a Democracy by Bombing villages. We have a real buck-a Roo for a President.

10:38 AM  
Blogger steve said...

P.S.- I have all the respect in the world for the men and women doing their duty over there...I don't know if its folly or not to continue down a road that we should not be on , but if thats what it takes to reserve what they have done and are doing, so be it.
I have a hard time getting the image of that "Mission Accomplished" banner out of my mind.
What a Buck-a-Roo.

4:49 PM  

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