Three days ago I printed off a nine page letter and mailed it to an Army APO address. It was addressed to the son of a good friend. He is currently in Kuwait I believe, his final destination may be Iraq or Afghanistan.
It took me three months to write it, and despite endless revisions and re-writes it still didn't come out very well. Why did I write it? There are several reasons. I know that soldiers don't ever get enough mail. I know that email is available, but emails are rarely written with the same care of real letters and they have none of the permanency. A real letter means you took a little more time and effort to put down your thoughts.
Where many have no doubt sent him well-wishes and hope for a safe deployment I took a more practical approach. I outlined to him exactly why I felt we were in a wrongful conflict, why our presence in Iraq is not helping the cause of peace and what might happen when we remove ourselves from that area. It is, aside from a few bits of practical advice, a lengthy screed on why I feel his is in for a rough time and why he should not be there at all.
I am sure his parents spoke with him about this. I am sure they pointed out the risks and dangers of entering the service at this time. They are no Bush lovers. And yet he joined anyway. I truly wish I had been given the opportunity to speak with him while he was deciding whether to join or not. I don;t know if I could have changed his mind. I don't know his motivations. All I know if that this is a kid I used to see running around camp at Pennsic. We'd send him off on ice runs. He has always been, in my mind, a kid. And now he is an adult. He is in the Army, and he is now a small cog in the machine of war. The reality of that struck me so hard that I tried to blurt out all the things that I would have if I had been given the chance, even though its too late now.
While I respect the profession of citizen-soldier and know that it is a necessity, I can't just shut up and throw a yellow ribbon magnet on the back of my car. While the security of this country often depends on young Americans answering the call to arms THIS call was a wrong fucking number.
Why did I write this letter? Even after agonizing over it and finally sending it, I still cannot say. What am I hoping he will do with the ideas, opinions and flat out rants contained within its pages? I don't know. Part of me hopes that he will undergo some kind of epiphany, that he will find some way to get out without dishonor.
Why did I write this letter? I guess it was for the most selfish of reasons. Because I just do not know what I would do if I had to go to a funeral and see him in a casket. How could I possibly handle seeing his parents weaping over his grave? The simple answer is that I couldn't. When the concept rears it ugly head rational thought seems to evaporate. There is an anger, a rage. Who is to blame? Who is responsible? Why did this kid die when those who never served, and who's kids will never serve get to live out their comfy lives? I find myself with a headache, clenching my jaw. I have to take deep breath and go for a short walk to put such thought out of my mind.
I don't know how he'll take this letter. It might annoy or piss him off. It wasn't my intent to offend or insult him, only to make him think. Benjamin Frankin said that "Thinking is one of the most difficult things a man can do, which is why so few engage in it". Will I get a reply? I doubt it. He is from an age of emails, instant and text messages. But one can hope.