I remember standing in the loading area of the Greyhound Station in Sacramento, saying good-bye to my dad. I had just turned eighteen a couple of weeks before and was on my way to boot camp.
I walked away from him and climbed aboard the bus with only the clothes in my bag and some shaving gear. All over the country other young men were doing the same thing. Some did so in answer to their country’s summons, but unbelievable as it may seem to the likes of our current crop of politicos and Jane Fonda, the majority were volunteers like me.
I had never been that far from home or cut off from my father before. It didn’t take long to discover, however, that I was far from alone. I stood in a group of men and we all took an oath to defend our Constitution before being whisked away to meet our Drill Instructor.
Ah, good times. The worst, best weeks of my life to that point.
Two years later, it was the boarding area at Travis AFB and it was my eight and a half month pregnant wife that I was leaving behind. I was carrying a lone duffle bag and some sadness but no regrets. I asked for it. My first born son arrived two weeks after I reached the Philippines.
Would I do it all again? Until this last year, I would not have hesitated to answer a resounding, “Yes!” Now, I’m not so sure. I still have no regrets.
I do have a growing sense of wonder whether the America I see outside my window was worth it. It certainly doesn’t deserve its warriors. The land of the free and the home of the brave is become the land of the bought and the home of the submissive.
The sad part is, that deep down where it really matters, I would do it all again. While I did it for my country, even more, I did it for something inside of me…something I shared with all those other young guys like me who remain a part of me still.
It was honor we shared… honor bound up in fidelity to a home we loved. That is something those who say America was never great will never understand. I think they are the poorer for that and their poverty may be the ruin of us all.