Saturday, August 27, 2005

Why Do They Do It?

For some strange reason, even in the face of the casualties, in the face of the IEDs and hospital beds filled with the maimed and forever changed, young men and women keep signing up to do their part in the War on Terror. Young patriots, despite all the negative press, keep enlisting. Many are even RE-enlisting after their first tour is up. This begs the question…WHY?

Why do they go? More importantly, why do they choose to go BACK? What makes a man or woman face the dangers of a combat zone, and walk safely away, only to reenlist, knowing they’ll probably have to go back?

You want to go back because you know that you will be one more experienced gun watching your buddies’ backs, rather than trusting that burden to some FNG who’s never fired at a target that wasn’t made of paper. You do it because you love your buddies enough to put yourself on the line to do what you can to make sure that THEY come home alive at the end of the day.

It’s not an easy life. You cram 13 guys into the back of something only slightly larger than the station wagon you crammed six of your high-school buddies into to go to that concert, only now, you’re wearing 45 pounds of extra gear and all carrying weapons. You get to know the men and women around you…sometimes better than you’d like. But you find ways to get along. More than that, you find yourself making friends with people you’d never get to meet back home.

If you’re a Tanker, you live, eat, and sleep with three other guys in a space smaller than most peoples’ walk-in closet. You trade your beef with macaroni MRE main course for their Maple Nut Cake dessert (‘cuz you KNOW how that chili-mac just tears him UP), and play poker for the extra coffee packets.

The so-called “mystery” about why soldiers and Marines re-enlist to fight “Bush’s War” is no mystery at all; because they aren’t fighting Bush’s War. They are fighting for each other, for their buddies. They fight because they see the same innocent joy in the face of an Iraqi child that they see in the eyes of their cousins, nieces, and daughters back home -- and they experience every day the evil that seeks to take that joy away. And so they fight. They fight, and defend, and protect, because it is what they are sworn and honor-bound to do.

They are doing something millions of the protected will never experience. They are sharing in the kind of camaraderie and brotherhood that can’t be accurately be described; only experienced. Their harshest words are reserved -- not for the enemy -- but for the Lieutenant who cowers in his vehicle while the Privates and Sergeants clear the building.

The anti-war, anti-military Left wants to dismiss this blood-bond as “brainwashing” or the hoodwinking of the innocent by jingoistic recruiters. They can’t understand what they don’t know, and yet they feel free to denigrate and criticize it.

A soldier, a Marine, a sailor, and airman that lays his life down so that others might live, doesn’t feel that his or her sacrifices are “for nothing,” because he doesn’t do it for oil, she doesn’t do it for Haliburton, or the Republicans; he doesn’t do it for the Democrats, the Yankees, or the Red Sox.

They fight and (yes, all too often) die for -- each other; for the cause of freedom, and in some vague yet very real way, for the hope that their lives, by rising to this challenge, might take on a quality, depth, and character achievable in few other ways.

Wars are never desirable, but they are sometimes necessary. Wars are never pretty, presentable, or suitable for polite dinner conversation. They are mean, ugly, brutal, and bloody; but they must be fought -- and they must be fought by individuals who are not afraid to get mean, ugly, dirty, and bloody to secure that victory.

Sometimes, victory is just bringing everybody home in one piece that day; and sometimes, achieving victory requires something different…something more.

And yet, it’s still victory.