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A friend of mine has wanted to join the military since he was seven years old. He doesn't want to go to college first, he doesn't want to join the ROTC, he wants to go straight in.
It horrifies me.
When I was little, my family went to San Antonio to attend my Uncle's rather short-lived marriage. One night, we left the hotel to go to the IMAX theatre to see, what else? The Alamo.
On our way back, I saw a frail man, who must have been in his late sixties. He was curled up in a ball on the stoop of this building, tucked into the shallow walls so the wind wouldn't hit him. He had a threadbare once-green-now-brown blanket that barely covered him, and he had a US Marines tattoo on his arm. He was asleep.
Aside from my mom's extreme drunk-ness during that trip, that's about all I remember from San Antonio.
As anti-war as I am, and I really wasn't caring until my friend told me he wanted to join the military, soldiers shouldn't be treated like second class citizens.
A few weeks ago I posted to the "notebooks" subreddit asking for advice on stationary (waterproof, really hard to tear up) or something to buy my friend. Old fashioned, I know, but I want to hear from him and I don't really know what sort of communication abilities they have (both while in Basic Training and after deployment), and my Marine cousin suggested letters.
One of the comments was:
- Why would you give a gift to someone who plans on joining an organization which kills innocent people?
Maybe it's how helpful the other comments were that stopped me. I've never been particularly patriotic, but the remark just filled me with rage. I don't know how I resisted the urge to reach though the screen and try to kill him with words. I could never see my friend killing someone, he's too nice. I've never even seen him truly angry.
Soldiers are the people that protect the homeland. I know that it's almost universally for "bad" reasons for the last fifty or so years, and that likely it shouldn't happen. I don't support any of the wars or occupations we're in, really. But these are volunteers. They're volunteering to die. "The last full measure of devotion," Lincoln called it. It drives me crazy that there are people who don't treat them with the full respect they deserve.
I'm a coward. I could never go over there and do what they're doing. When they get home, they should have the top educational opportunities, top medical coverage and insurance, career and employment assistance, and vouchers for housing. There is no reason a soldier should be hungry, homeless, or damaged, in this country.
I've never asked my friend what I think is an important question: "What happens when your legs get blown off?" The VA is a mess. PTSD is still barely treated. Soldiers are treated like roaches by the government at the same time that they parade around their support of the military.
It makes me sick. I fear for my friend's life, both knowing that he'll eventually be in a combat situation, and knowing that if he survives, a just as unforgiving environment awaits him when he returns home. His dreams fill me with fear and dread, but I support him anyway because that's what he wants to do. I think if anything bad happens to him, I'll simply turn inside out and be dead.