A few years ago my 16 year old nephew came to visit us in Maine with my brother and the rest of his family. He was always a bit of a trouble maker and his parents always said he was a lot like me. The last time I saw him on that Thanksgiving weekend, I couldn’t stand him. He was arrogant, egotistical, and just plain flippant with everyone. I tried to talk to him and give him advice; set him straight so to speak, but to no avail.
Fast forward about one year or so. I heard through the family grapevine that my nephew had decided to join the service.
WHAT!? Keep in mind this was in the midst of the lowest points of the Iraq War. Not that they aren’t all low points and the measuring stick keeps hitting new lows all the time, but I couldn’t bear the thought of my own nephew, no matter how abnoxious he was the last time I saw him, on the battlefield, and fighting a war that began on a stack of lies. I was aghast. I was in disbelief. I was scared to death. A boy whose parents are now born again Christians must have been scared out of their minds.
Time passed, I didn’t hear much. I presumed things were OK with my nephew since I didn’t get the “bad news”. It was all so strange and so surreal.
A week ago, my nephew came to Maine to visit the family. He was on a month long leave and all he wanted to do was spend time on the lake in the Maine countryside. And as far as I am concerned, any soldier deserves exactly what they want when they are on leave, or otherwise for that matter. They are risking their lives for us over ther, because, as is told to them by their commanding officer and the American Right Wing Media, so we don’t have to fight them over here.
When I saw him I gave him a big hug. He looked somehow the same, yet somehow different. I didn’t really know how to talk to him. Partly because there were so many people around, relative and friends and such, and party because I just didn’t know what to say since the last time I saw him I wanted to kill him myself.
As the long weekend progressed, I found my one opportunity to talk to him. I started out slow. I had a million questions but didn’t want to overwhelm him. I wanted to know what it was like to be in the Army, to be in Afghanistan or Iraq. What did he do everyday for his job. How did he have fun. And then the blogger in me came alive. Do you get news from home? Do you get American TV? Do you talk about the war among your co-workers (I don’t even know the right terms like Platoon, or Squadron, or Brigade)?
He began to open up to me. He told me that he worked on the supply line. Six of his buddies had been killed, four by IEDs. I asked him if he agreed with the war and he said no. I asked him if his buddies believed in the war and he said no. He didn’t understand why they was over there or what they were really supposed to be doing, in the big picture. He knew the soldiers on the front line (wherever that is) needed supplies and that was his daily work. He didn’t understand the big picture.
I couldn’t figure out if his confusion was because he is nineteen years old or because he was uninformed. And if he was uninformed was it intentional by Army in general?
He told me about talking to some guys from Special Ops. According to my nephew, the Special Ops guys had Osama bin Laden in their sights, on more than one occassion. And when, at the final moment, the Special Ops guys asked for a final “shoot to kill” order, they were told to stand down. My nephew was heartbroken. He thought that getting OBL was part of his mission. And if they are not allowed to complete their mission and go home, then why were they there.
I tried to explain to him that if Bin Laden were killed now, America would feel safer and then vote Democrat in the 2008 election. As long as there is fear in the hearts and minds of Americans, the Republicans have a chance at keeping the White House. It is sick and twisted, but it is true and it is American politics.
He is still a bit young to understand politics. He is very isolated from politics and could not even remember the name of the Republican nominee, John McCain. it didn’t matter to him. He had his job to do ever day and it is extremely difficult and all-consuming. He wants to do his job and come home to his girlfriend so he can get married and start his life. He was hoping that the new G.I. bill would go through and just a few days ago I emailed him and let him know that both he and his family would be taken care of in terms of their education.
So I have this nineteen year old nephew, who has grown up a lot in just a few years. What man wouldn’t grow up after seeing the horrors of war. He wants to serve his country, learn all he can from it, come home, get married, have children and try to carve out his piece of the American Dream. And I want that for him, too. He’s is pretty sure that when his tour is up, he will be stop-gapped; something he never even knew about when he enlisted.
He enlisted because he didn’t want to turn out like his friends; drinking and partying every weekend, living in their parent’s basements. He did the right thing for himself at the time. But the only way that he will have a chance at the American Dream, and the only way we, as Americans, will repay him for his service by helping him attain his goal, is to end this ridiculous, un-winable war.
It’s time, people, do the right thing.