Saturday, August 20, 2005

Some Questions...

Last night I went to an Eagle Court of Honor for three young men, two I've known since they were Cub Scouts. In the audience were many others I know from Scouting; again, several I've known since they were shorter than me.

One of these young men was dressed in his Marine Corps dress blues. His stepmother is not happy with his decision to enlist and part of it is the war in Iraq. The other part of it is that he tends to be impulsive and she doesn't feel the decision to enlist was well thought out on his part.

He has injured his knee and is currently home getting treated. Hubs had the same injury 30 years ago, so they were comparing experiences. (Their conclusion: Navy medical corpsmen are incompentent.) His biggest worry: his unit will be deployed to Iraq in January and he won't be able to go with them.

"I'm fighting them on it, but they're not budging," he told me. "Don't get me wrong--I don't want to go to Iraq, but these guys are my family. If something happens to them while I'm not there, I don't know what I'd do. I'd feel guilty."

I was not really surprised by his attitude. I've read the words of other soliders, sailors, airmen and women, and Marines expressing the same feelings. I've been to the funeral of a local Boy Scout, killed in action in Iraq, who had said the same thing to his family during his deployment. Is loyalty to a group, to a gang, to a clan hardwired into human beings? Is that why we form social groups and gather together to worship our gods? Does the military just happen to do a very good job in forming group loyalties?

Still, I am in awe that this 19-y.o. man is willing to sacrifice his personal well-being for his group. He didn't speak of "saving America" or "making Iraq safe for democracy." He wants to be with his guys, to share the hardships with them, to help bring everyone home safely. That's a pretty mature attitude in my book, one that I know I didn't have at 19. I am awed.