It was the beginning of the Iraq war, or "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The news station proudly aired bombs exploding over Baghdad, flashing like heat lightening on a hot and humid August night in New England. A few minutes later I opened a gift from my brother, it was a Rage Against the Machine CD. On the CD was a song called "Testify," which had come out and few years earlier and included the lines:
"Mister anchor assure me
That Baghdad is burning
Your voice it is so soothing
That cunning mantra of killing
I need you my witness
To dress this up so bloodless
To numb me and purge me now
Of the thoughts of blaming you"
My life had changed dramatically for the second time in two years and technically I wouldn't be a teenager for another three hours. I immediately remembered and began to rethink the events that occurred a year and a half earlier on September 11th.
Ever since my 13th birthday I feel like every time I have checked CNN or the local news I hear about more soldiers dying overseas. Until now they were just names.
But this time it is more than just a name of a fallen soldier in Afghanistan.
It was a face. A face I knew. A face I remembered - always with a goofy smile - playing little league baseball with my older brother. A face that always kept his teammates laughing with his squirrelly voice, as my brother recalled. A face that was a terrific wrestler in high school. A face that served five tours in less than four years. A face that was awarded a Meddle of Valor for his role in an operation against Al-Qaida in 2008 for capturing their number two man. A face of a 23-year-old sergeant in the Army Rangers that I saw on WMUR. A face that I will never again see in person. A face of a true American hero.
Say what you want about the principals of these wars in which America is involved, whether or not they are truly justified. Put the politicians and your political views aside. Please support our troops. This is America and we are American. They are there for you. They are there for us. Many of them, like the Army Ranger I knew, are just kids. 18-23 years old who finished high school and immediately enlisted. I guess I realized something yesterday, and it pains me to say this, but it never really hits you until it is someone you know.
We are at that age now when shit gets real. I see police logs with names of kids my brothers and I went to elementary school with, being arrested or going to jail, or dying from a drug overdose and now in war. I remember when learning to ride bikes with those kids, now I remember that child for another reason. I think of my high school friends, and even kids I wasn't friends with, who are in the military overseas and it scares me. What if tomorrow it is one of them? Even the kids I wasn't friends with, I graduated with them and they were apart of my life. What if it's one of them? Can I handle that? I think of my friends currently in ROTC at UNH and other schools. Yesterday's news hit me hard. I'm afraid of tomorrow's.
I love life. I have fun. Is that fair? That I can have fun without instinctively considering others, especially those fighting for us? Does that make me a bad person, or is it just apart of human nature? Is that what we are really fighting for? The freedom to love life, without worrying.
It makes me question things. How many Americans must die in a WAR of FREEDOM? Is that was these WARS are really all about - freedom? What about the regular Iraqi citizens who die and suffer from our imposed sanctions? That's not freedom. How can my friends risk their lives in battle, but not be allowed to drink a beer. Is it fair for me to even think that? Is it wrong for me to not enjoy waking up to go to work or class at 9, when people my age and even younger are hiking across the desert mountains in the Middle East, carrying assault riffles with snipers scopes and missiles aimed at them and with IED's possibly under every footstep? And they're doing that for ME, for YOU, for US. It really puts things into perspective.
I know one thing for sure, when it comes down to it, I love this country and I will always support our troops. Thank you for reading and a special thank you if you have ever served this country.
Stay classy, not UMassy.