Sunday, November 11, 2012

Those Who Serve

I have uncles who have served in wars--Korean, Vietnam--and friends who have served in more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I must admit--until I began to write about war, I did not begin to understand it. Begin is a key word, for no amount of research, no amount of hearing soldiers' stories, no amount of imagining war can replicate the experience of war.

For most of my life, I have thought of war as a dirty deed done by our government to others' countries. Part of our nation's conquest of capitalism and resources. Parts of the perception may be true, depending upon the war, the countries. Certainly, these are factors considered in the decision of a country to go to war, and strategies employed during engagement.

But if there is one thing I have come to realize, it is this: the reasons to go to war are very different for the average American who enlists in an armed service. The reasons might have to do with patriotism or politics, but more likely have to do with economics, the need for structure, the need to escape things that might appear at face value worse than enlisting: legal problems, loss of love, loss of identity and self-worth.

Indeed, Jeremiah Anselm, one of my characters, enlists only after he finds himself failing at every thing he has ever loved. In researching his character and the war in Afghanistan, I have read and witnessed the stories of a number of men who join for similar reasons.

It takes a lot of courage to serve the Army, Marines, Navy, and other services, especially when America finds itself at war. To those who serve--or who have served--I thank you for your courage, for doing what I do not have the bravery to do myself. Peace...

(Photograph by the late documentary film-maker Tim Hetherington. Photo taken of the inner arm of Sergeant Rice, Second Platoon, Battle Company, 503rd Us Infantry. Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, 2007)

1 comment:

  1. I am not comfortable with war. Any war. And firmly believe that both sides/all sides commit atrocities.
    You are right about the myriad of reasons which people have to enlist, and about the courage. I respect those needs and those reasons.
    And today I am joining you. Peace...