Friday, May 27, 2005

Musings 41--Tarnished patriots

I was in the old print shop last Wednesday, when the phone rang and a voice asked if we made free copies for a good cause. Now when this happens, I am always skeptical, and I pull out my bologna meter to start testing the waters.

The voice on the other end of the line said that he was an air national guardsman who needed petitions to try to save the Yeager Airport Air National Guard Unit--commonly called the 130th Air Wing. I said that if he would come into the shop I would be more than happy to donate a couple of hundred copies of his petition form. See Link. I figured if he showed up, then he was legit.

Two hours later, the young man showed up. He was the typical early twenties, close cropped hair, physically fit young fellow that you see every evening on the nightly news. I began making copies of his petition form as we discussed the probable loss of his air wing unit at Yeager.

In the course of the conversation, he mentioned in passing that he had done two tours in Iraq and was scheduled to go again later this year. He noted that he really liked his national guard unit, but that he was not sure how long he would stay in due to the hardship of heading to Iraq every six months or so.

I asked him if the constant use of the reserves and guard have hurt recruitment. His answer was "most definitely." He went on to say that though he was proud to serve, he did not understand why the guard and reserves were doing more than forty percent of the fighting in Iraq. I told him that it puzzled me too, since the word reserve should mean what it says--in reserve of the regulars. The national guard, at least in my time, meant you protected the homeland and were only tossed into the fray on an emergency basis.

He told me that he had always felt that he should do his duty, but he wondered how many times he needed to keep doing it. I just shook my head. It really made me sad to see a young patriot who loved his county have pangs of doubt.

With the copies done, I signed his petition to keep the 130th at Yeager and bid him good luck. He smiled and smartly turned and walked out the door into the brisk spring wind.

I would bet a month's pay, although he did not say so, that his idea of America was slightly changed. I'd bet that he still loved his country, but it was a love that was tarnished with the realities of Iraq. I wonder how many tarnished patriots this "war on terror" will give us?

Mr. President, if your air national guard unit had been deployed to sunny Viet Nam, I don't think we would have lost 1,650 lives and 12,000 wounded in Iraq. I could be wrong--but I doubt it.


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