In college I thought I was enlightened because I read Howard Zinn and Karl Marx. Zinn did open my eyes, but Marx I just had the book open and saw words. None of it sank in. I was an armchair activist, and a bad one at that. I just had leftist thoughts that I didn’t do anything with. I was just trying to be different by saying uninformed things like, “We don’t need no education!” Or, “The man is keeping us down!” I would say these things in my head while I sat on the patio of my parents house that was on top of a hill in suburbia, which means it wasn’t cheap. Which means I didn’t really have anything to complain about, or even really know what I was shouting about in my head.
I would think intellectually about war at the time, our country’s response to 9/11, and America’s military in the Middle East and pretend to have an informed decision. My opinion at the time was that our country and troops had no right to be there and those joining the military were part of the problem.
Nope. Not at all.
As I have grown older, I am no more informed than I was before. I am too much of a kid and don’t watch the news. I’m ignorant on political issues and stances, even though I am sure that I disagree with Republicans. That is until my wife and I talk about something going on in the world, and she screams at me, “You think that way about that issue BECAUSE YOU’RE A REPUBLICAN! Stop pretending to be a Democrat!”
Also, as I have grown older, my stance on the men and women who enlist in the armed services have changed. I have become more appreciative of the men and women that serve this country by volunteering their lives to defend its’ freedoms. I think one big turning point for me was when Pat Tillman, former NFL player, quit playing football to enlist with the Army Rangers. It did not seem long after he enlisted and was deployed that news came out that he was killed in action. I saw something this week that said he would have been 39. He gave up his own hopes and dreams to something bigger than himself.
I couldn’t have been in the armed services because I don’t have the balls to crawl in the mud, or be too cold, or too hot, or be awake for more than 10 hours at a time. It is best I don’t have a gun for my own safety, because I would trip on a rock and shoot myself in the toe. When my kids play in the yard for 5 minutes, I make them change their pants, because they are now dirty. I get cranky if I don’t get 8 hours of sleep. How is a guy like me supposed to go through boot camp? I screamed bloody murder for Tasha to help when trying to take out the old dishwasher and water sprayed all over the kitchen. Tasha came running in with no idea how to help. I took a breath and reached under the sink to turn off the water. I didn’t need her help, but I screamed for her like I did.
Imagine me on the battlefield: “LIEUTENANT DAN!!! HELP!”
That’s not what you want in a soldier. Tasha and I agree it is a good thing I never went into the army, even though my dad served and really wanted me to in order to help pay for college. Sorry, dad, but it’s a good thing I didn’t. And thank you for your service.
Comedian Mike Birbiglia has a joke that I will paraphrase that says, “I support the troops because if there were no troops, I would be the troops. And I would be the worse troops.” I stand with Mike; I would also be the worse troops.
So I’ve come around some from the mindset I had in college, at least when it comes to those in the military and veterans who have served. Thank you for your service to this country and its’ freedoms, and sacrificing yourself to something bigger. Thank you, Dad, for your service, on the battlefield and at home.
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