Wednesday, April 29, 2009

National Service

From time to time I receive emails from people I've not yet met, as a result of their having read my blog. This is something that I'd not really expected, I guess. I figured I could use the blog as a way of keeping my family and friends apprised of what's going on with SFC McG and myself during this mobilization. I'd not seen it as a ministry in and of itself, but it seems as though it's turning into that.

Perhaps that's why it's begun to feel a bit as if I've created a Frankenstein's monster: this blog often seems to have taken on a life of its own, and now commands pretty much all of my attention and energy outside of work.

A great surprise to me has been that I've actually kept up with it for the better part of ten months now. Truth be told: I don't really enjoy writing. I'm not sure why. I've never been good at keeping a journal before now.

In any event, I received the following note when I got back from a couple of days of being on the road and in the air (there was no greeting; I've not redacted his words at all):
THANKS ! ! ! just a quick note to let you know what a blessing your blog has been to me over the past week. I stumbled on to your blog about a week ago and it was just what I needed. I am a retired MSG with the guard who spent a year in Afghanistan in 2003 – 04. My promise to my son that I would never leave him that long again forced a retirement after 24 years cause I knew I would deployed again if I stayed( They are down range as I write). I am a catholic 49 year old guy who was searching for some direction spiritually when I stumbled on the blog. The Idiocy of summer camp, in processing, shower shoes and stones, wonder and awe at the brilliance of the stars and moon, dust storms and dust frustrations etc…. gushed a flood of memories good and bad. The pointers I picked up from you your AA Alanon friends gave me some new insights and tools I needed at the time. I only got few a few months read and am looking forward to going back over old ones and anticipating your new ones as a new daily read. Thanks again.

God Bless You and your mission I will pray that HE brings you home safely as you near the end of your deployment and that he blesses the very important work you are doing

It's gratifying to know that people actually read this blog.

I'm very grateful for Mike's long and honorable military service; one can't go much higher up the rank structure than MSG in the Army (Sergeant Major is all that's left).

I feel very sad that he felt forced to make the choice between continuing to serve in uniform and retiring (he might have been able to serve another 16 years under other circumstances, perhaps), but I certainly understand and support his decision.

That the burden of this "long war" is being borne by so few is beginning to annoy me more and more. In the Guard and Reserve, I know Soldiers who have deployed almost as often as -- and in some cases *more* often than -- Active Duty personnel. The strain that this places upon families seems to grow exponentially, rather than in linear fashion.

Much to my surprise, given that I was in the last group of potential draftees during Vietnam from which numbers were actually called up (they came within 20 or 30 of getting to *my* number), I now find myself absolutely in favor of some sort of mandatory national service program.

This would be different from the draft during the Vietnam era, which was inherently unjust, and allowed way too many people (like myself at the time!) to escape the burdens borne by the rest.

It would need to be such that *everyone* had to serve, doing *something*.

Those who do not want to bear arms (as I did not then, and do not now) would not do so. But they would have to do some public service, in some other capacity, for the same amount of time as those in the military.

There would be no deferments, no shirking of responsibility, no "having other priorities at the time."

Everyone would have to do something.

I suspect we'd be a very different country, once this were implemented and had time to mature.

And career reservist Soldiers such as Mike, who wrote me yesterday, would not have to decide between service to the nation and their love for their family, because the burdens of patriotism would be borne by all, and not just by so few.

Easter blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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Anonymous said...

I don't remember how I found your blog, but I'm a friend of Bill's for about as long as you, I'm about your age and I am definitely not a Jesuit Neuroscientist or a military Chaplain in a combat area. Still, the similarities outweigh the differences and I will happily take my spiritual insights from wherever I can get them.

Mary Coady said...

It's amazing to me that you don't enjoy writing, because the blog is so lively and so well written, that I'd never know that it's become Frankenstein. Of course, I remember what the great sports columnist Red Smith said about writing: "Writing is easy. All you have to do is open a vein and bleed." And as someone who does it for a living, I completely understand that comment. Keep the blog coming. It's a wonderful inspiration, and it's a wonderful narrative of one soldier's perspective on the troops' life in Iraq--and makes me appreciate their service even more.


seg said...

I agree--everyone do two years in the military like they do in Israel.

MaryShields said...

Your blog is important to many of us, Tim. My daughter married a German, lives in Sindlefingen. Her son left Gymnasium (high school) and did compulsory public service. He chose between military and non military, but he gave one year before Univ. to his native land in service. GOOD IDEA. I prefer the way of peace, personally, however service is a part of peaceful living on Earth. Thanks for your life!! msg :-)

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