Saturday, September 06, 2008

Basic Training

In the last couple weeks our youngest son graduated from Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Pretty routine, soldiers, families, heat, humidity, irritability from time to time. The first day was Family Day. We were to get there at 10:00 and so my wife wanted to get there early. As it turned out, we were to be let into the post theater at 11:00.

Picture this....200 family members standing in the sun and humidity, pushed up against the front of the theater, waiting. Wonderful really. The Family Day family theater period lasted about twenty minutes and included primarily a hard-to-hear bubba try to tell us the rules for Family Day. Essentially, we could have our soldier until 8:00 that evening with some limits on distance and admonitions that he could not have alcohol, drive the car, or change out of his uniform. Well that went OK and we had him back on time, dressed and with no alcohol on board.

The next day was Graduation Day. Oddly enough, it started the same advertised arrival time and then a later actual start time. Same scenario...200 people in the sun and humidity pressed up against the same theater entrance. Once we finally got inside, the graduation itself was pretty much standard. The most interesting aspect of the graduation is that the soldiers entered in platoons - about forty to fifty soldiers each. Each platoon would march onto the stage, execute a Left Face and then singly take a step forward, state their name and home state, and then execute a Right Face and march off the stage.

That may sound somewhat boring, and I think I would agree with you - to some extent. In fact, it was boring until, after several names and states, a particularly singular idea floated into my mind. I don't know if it was during the first or second platoon, or where exactly in that platoon it came to me. As I sat there and listened to a soldier blast out his name and state, it occurred to me that this - these soldiers - were America. The states they named accounted for a great majority of the country - New York to California, and Florida to Washington.When these soldiers, so young and relatively naive may be sent off to war, it would be America sending America's soldiers to war. We were all represented and we would all send our sons and daughters off to fight. If there is any unity, if there should be any unity, it must be when we send our children - they may not like that label, but they are - off to war. There can be no room for argument; no room for hedging our political likes and dislikes. No, when American sends her kids off to war, we must do so together, because that is exactly what we are doing.

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