Last week the Family traveled to southern California to see the Marine – the Wife’s son. The Marine was in the field for the first few days of our trip, but was able to spend a day or two with us. It was the first time I had seen him since 2000, and back then he had left with his trailer-trash wife after putting us through an emotional wringer. Then 9-11 hit and things changed. I took the opportunity to reach out to him through his email account two weeks later…
Given the situation in the world right now I am taking
the opportunity to contact you. Whether you respond or
not is up to you.
Contrary to what you think, there are still people
here who care about you. The world has become a much
more dangerous place in the last two weeks, and you
are in an organization devoted to the protection of
our nation. Your safety is on every one’s minds, and
if you wish to pretend that it’s not then go right
ahead. Ignore this email.
However if there is a part of you that wants to change
the situation, I want to offer you the opportunity to
do so. That’s why I’ve decided to contact you without
your mother’s knowledge…
The world has changed. Everything that happened before
09/11/01 has little relation to today. It is a time
for new beginnings for those who choose to do so. The
choice is yours.
His trailer-trash wife intercepted the email when he was on his way to Afghanistan and twisted it around. Several weeks later, after I saw his picture in the newspaper and received several letters returned to me unopened by his father, I received a long letter dated 10/06/01…
As you sit in your comfortable house with your high paying job and your college degrees, you look down on me as your dumb marine infantryman. Let me explain something to you. If it wasn’t for “this” dumb grunt with a GED you wouldn’t have the freedom to look down upon me. You are what is wrong with my country. You are weak minded.
The Marine didn’t know me. He knew a caricature of me painted by his father – who assumed I was a typical college educated liberal and who also knew nothing about me. He didn’t know about my blue-collar upbringing and the stories of my dad’s experiences fighting in the Philippines during World War 2 that were some of the few memories I had of my father before he died. He had only spent a few weeks with me and his mother when he was 11 – so he assumed the worst.
At the time he was writing that letter, I was writing this.
Currently there is a strain of logic that is appearing on college campuses and salons of the Left as America goes to war. This logic is what is called the “rape victim asked for it” defense of the indefensible. This logic which has been repeated in the letters to the editor of this and other papers states that the terrorists are not at fault for the attack on the Pentagon and WTC – we Americans are. The terrorists were merely reacting to American policies abroad such as the support of Israel and continued sanctions on Iraq and are therefore ultimately not responsible for the 7,000 dead. The American government is – and since the government represents the will of our people, we Americans are to blame for the death and destruction of September 11, 2001. All that remains is for a call for reparations to the families of the dead hijackers.
Although I consider 9-11 as a metanoia, or spiritual conversion on my part, one of several things that hadn’t changed was a deep respect and reverence for the military, the men who were in “the Service” as it was then known. My father was one of these men, as was my brother-in-law who brought me home a tiny jacket embroidered with a map of southeast Asia and the slogan, “Fighters by day, lovers by night, drunkards by choice, ready to fight. Cu-Chi Vietnam.” Unlike my father my brother-in-law didn’t speak about his experiences in the War – not because his war was Vietnam but because he was a quiet man. Kind of like me – when I’m not pounding away at the keyboard.
Dad on the bottom left 1945 Philippines
So Friday rolls around and the Marine is supposed to be at a “meeting” with his men to discuss the week’s training. We popped into his girlfriend’s apartment to see his kid when lo and behold there he is.
28 years old. Thin but well-built, with tattoos spiralling around his neck and arms. He was in a hurry to get back to the meeting and I only had a few moments with him.
“There’s so much I want to ask you,” I said.
“Go ahead. Ask anything,” he replied as he prepped to leave.
The first question that came to mind after knowing about where he’s been and where he’s going: “Was it worth it?”
He answered the question in a unique way, and as he did so it dawned on me that how he viewed Iraq and the GWOT and how I viewed those things were different. He answered the question by talking about how the aspects of his work were just part of the job to him.
And over the few remaining hours together, there wasn’t much talk about the big picture (except to knock a few of the Useful Idiots like Nancy Pelosi). To him going to Iraq and fighting wars was just a job.
I design computer systems. He designs ways of keeping his men alive as they clear out apartment blocks filled with bad guys hiding behind women and children. I go to work in a suit; he goes to work wearing 50 lbs of ceramic plates in his flack jacket. I wield a keyboard – he has medals for pistol and rifle marksmanship.
But beyond that we are common men with jobs to do, there is one key difference between us:
He’s a hero. I am not.
He’s better at being a hero than I am. It’s his job, and personally I don’t want fighting terrorists to become my job – which is why I worry when Democrats thrust their heads into the sand and minimize what terrorists have done in our country, and have said they would do given the chance.
Being a hero is an important distinction between the two of us, and one that I respect. I hope he understands that what he does is more than a job. I don’t go to work with the fate of my nation on my back. I am not trained to exercise a license to kill when called to do so in defense of others or our country. I don’t know if it’s his natural humility or his youthful vision that keeps him from seeing the differences between us.
He’s a United States Marine. I wish I was a United States Marine. Hoo-rah.