Tuesday, November 16, 2004

On The Mark -- Until Death Do Us Part

Imagine for a minute that you're a 47-year-old new father, it's your first child. You served admirably in the U.S. military for 10 years, departing in 1997. Comparatively, you've been a couch potato ever since. Today you open your mailbox expecting the usual -- bills, junk mail and magazines. You toss the stack on the kitchen table and as it spreads out you see something that looks official from the U.S. Government. Another tax cut, you think joyously. Wrong. You've been called back to active duty, and it's time to report for another stint. You see, when you signed that contract with the military, you, like most kids (and most adults), didn't read the fine print. "This is absurd," you say. "I'm old. I can't even get off the couch without feeling the stiffness of old age. I haven't flown a helicopter or fired a gun for 7 years. I have a new family. This is just a mistake."

Wrong. You didn't know it, or maybe you did but didn't pay much attention to it, but you're a proud member of the 110,000-strong Individual Ready Reserve (or, put in other words that most of us can relate to, the Until Death Do Us Part Ready Reserve). We're not talking about the weekend soldiers here, we're talking about people who have done their time and have moved on with their lives (don't get me wrong, not that there's anything wrong with being a part-time soldier).

A few months before 9/11 I remember that a young acqaintance of mine, still in high school, had signed up for the Army as part of the buddy program. They had been heavily recruited. I was horrified. I gave him books on what it was like to be in boot camp. I gave him books on first-person experiences in battle. I wanted to make sure he really knew what he was doing. Then he went to buddy boot camp for two weeks, came home and told his mother he'd made a big mistake. They thought it was too late, but remember this was before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq. His mother jumped on it and finally reached a recruiting sergeant and told him that her son wanted out. She thought it was hopeless, but she can be persuasive. After several discussions, the sergeant finally told her, "we don't want anyone in our army who doesn't want to be here," and that was that. What a difference a few years and an unwarranted war can make...

Oh, and by the way, how do you spell back-door draft?

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