Over the last 10 years, I have known many people who have served in the United States military. Some I met after they had already served, some were friends from high school who left after graduation. Most were acquaintances, a few were friends and with two, I had a fairly close relationship.
However, nothing has come close to seeing one of my closest friends prepare to leave for the Army.
I believe that many of us have become numb to the fact that so many men and women continue to ship out to war. I have seen quite a few people who seem oblivious to the fact that our nation is still embroiled in two different wars. I will be honest, my focus strays as well.
When I moved to Norwich in 1999, I didn’t start out with many friends. It’s tough for any kid moving to a new town and I was certainly “different” enough to warrant some skepticism from my fellow classmates about whether or not I was “cool.”
It was tough making friends, so I gained a healthy appreciation for the few I had. After the first year I entered middle school, which meant a fresh start and new friends. A few of the friends I made that year I haven’t seen or talked to since graduation; a few have remained close.
One of those friends will be leaving for boot camp on Nov. 9 and I won’t lie and say it doesn’t have me a little shook up.
When he told me, I was excited for the guy. He had been having some tough times and I could tell he was ready for a change.
“That’s fantastic!” I said. “If there’s anyone who could be a hero, it’s you.”
I’m still honestly very proud of him. However, with hundred of soldiers dying each year fighting these wars, I can’t say I’m pleased with the situation.
I am a pacifist at heart. At least, I’ve always believed so and I try to live my life by that idea. But, I also grew up with comic book characters which instilled in me an understanding of the concept of “fighting crime” and “a war against injustice.”
Therefore, whether or not it was right to get involved in these wars in the first place, and whether or not it’s right to still be there, those men and women are risking their lives to save the lives of others. We owe them our support just as much as we owe them the time it takes to persuade the government to bring them home.
This will be the last weekend I see my friend for a few months. A going away party has been planned to make sure he leaves knowing how many friends he has waiting for him. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about the whole thing, but I’m still incredibly proud of my friend.
He isn’t what many people might view as soldier material. He is very disciplined, dedicated and believes in the cause. However, he is also kind, loving, and has an incredible sense of right and wrong. He is a devoted father and has always been an incredible friend, which in this humble reporter’s opinion, makes him the best soldier this country could ask for.
Ben, we know you’ll do amazing things for this country and that you’ll come home to us safe. I’ll miss ya, cousin.
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