Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who Fights This War?

One of the administrative sergeants I run into once in a while was a Marine for 10 years before joining the Army National Guard. He is aloof and old enough that no one bothers him very much. He mostly keeps to himself, but will occasionally burst into a lecture about safety, security, the political situation in Iraq or how this war should be fought. His outbursts, like the lid sliding off a boiling pot, show that the heat has been building for a long time and finally he explodes. An early commentator on the Iliad wrote about Achilles saying, "An angry man never thinks he has spoken enough" and this sergeant proves it.

Today I was waiting for some other soldiers and had some time to sit and listen to this sergeant talk about his last deployment. It turns out the reason he keeps his distance and thinks about security issues goes back to his deployment three years ago. He was also on a large base then, but worked with people who went on convoys. For the most part he did not eat dinner, but one of the guys on convoy was a particular friend, another ex-Marine, so he would always change his schedule and eat dinner when his buddy was on base.

One day the aloof sergeant got the word that his dinner buddy got killed in a mortar attack. As he described it they were great friends, "And I decided I was not going to let that happen again. I'll talk to people but I don't want to care that much have them taken away. I still think about all the plans he had for his family, to travel--all gone."

The alternative to love is self-protection, keeping others at a distance so they won't hurt you by leaving. It's a choice we all make to some degree, to risk love or draw back.