Candid Chat with a Soldier

Monday, 31 May 2010
I sat down at an airport bar in Atlanta to have a beer before catching my plane to Cancun.  A man in uniform sat down next to me and ordered a double Jack and Coke.  Since I am forever grateful to men and women who serve the United States, I asked the waitress to please but his drink on my bill.  He thanked me and then started talking.

He said he was 25 years old and had just completed a training course to become a Sergeant in the U.S. Army after putting in two tours in Iraq.  Sgt. John was an Army Reservist but decided to go full time after being offered a deal he couldn't refuse. After hearing my story of being married to (but apart from) Kingsley he seemed very surprised that we could remain faithful.

Sgt. John said he told his soldiers to "expect the worst from the women at home because a year away is a year."  I told him in the grand scheme of life with a partner, one year is nothing.  He raised an eyebrow and said, "Well, how old are you?"  When I answered (30) he said "Oh, that's why. Most of my soldiers are 20 and they just get married before they deploy. They're too immature and so are their wives."  I laughed inside about a 25 year old guy playing the "wise card" about 20 year olds.

He ordered another double Jack and Coke.  I was only a sip or two into my drink.  Sgt. then opened up about suicide in the Army saying this year, more soldiers committed suicide than any other in combat history.  I felt sorry for him and then felt sad.

Memorial Day is more than a remembrance of sacrifice or celebration of freedom.  Beyond just taking the holiday to enjoy time at the lake, let's consider using our voting rights to support diplomacy and peace.  Does the Western World have to protect itself?  Yes.  Are there other ways to do so beyond age-old active combat, excessive use of fire power and force?  Yes.  The trickle down effect may be that fewer young men and women take their own lives, 25 year old men aren't drinking 2 double Jack and Cokes in less than 10 minutes and more young families stay together.

I said, "Well thank you for your service and protecting our freedoms."  As he got up he thanked me again for the drink and laughed in a cynical way.  "It's just a job.  I hate to let people deceive themselves."  Oh.

Service men and women that deploy to combat zones exist even for a short time in a hell civilians will never know.  They often have no clue what they're up against until they're literally shoved out of a plane into the red zone.  Did you use your vote to send them there (by electing a candidate who is pro-combat)?  Did you use your vote to elect leaders who are making every single soldier's life count in a mission that makes sense?  I thought about that for a long time before I voted in the last election.  My brother survived Iraq in a medical battalion for a long tour when the war was incredibly intense.

I tried to send some fast/high/good energy with the Sgt. as he left but he didn't even glance back.

May all of our service members be blessed with wisdom and safety.  May families who have lost service members be blessed with wisdom and comfort.  May our leaders be blessed with wisdom and bravery to achieve peace when possible.


Anonymous said...

Segue - isn't it fun to have a quick (overpriced) drink at an airport while waiting for a flight? I always feel like an international jet setter and you always meet the most interesting people. (most of the time)

Denae said...

Totally fun. That's why if I don't have an annoying, horrid layover... I love air travel.