My 17-year-old daughter declared that the army is in her future, and now I am questioning how she reached that conclusion — and if I’m unpatriotic because my gut reaction to this pronouncement was “No, no, no!”
That’s because when I think of the army, I think of service, training, deployment — and a couple of things called guns and missiles. And that scares me. Apparently it doesn’t scare her.
So how did a liberal, pro-choice, Jewish feminist chooses to enlist.
It’s not like my family has a long military tradition, but my father did proudly serve in the Navy during World War II (it’s even possible he was so eager to enlist that he might have signed up a little before his 18th birthday. One of his great disappointments was the failure of the Navy to send him overseas).
I’m sure I’ve told her about those Thanksgivings when I was little when two young sailors would appear at our door in their dress blues, with white caps in hand, sent to us by the U.S.O. from Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Different recruits arrived each year, always polite and from some faraway state, a little homesick, missing the holiday with their families. This was symbolic of my father’s sense of connection and duty to the Navy.
But I want still to blame all the action movies she’s watched featuring smart, attractive Americans who always triumph over the terrorists and drug lords. But I also wonder if there are ways I may be at fault for this thought getting into her head. It’s not like I wear a flag pin all the time, but am one of those guys who takes his hat off and sings along with the National Anthem and I remember saying the pledge of allegiance, hand over heart, looking at the flag, every day at school. I talk with my kids about the Constitution and things that make our country great.
Even though I dread the possibility of losing my first born to a roadside bomb in the Middle East or a helicopter accident on some training grounds, I haven’t tried to talk her out of military service. Instead, I talked to her about the pros and cons of the other armed forces and what it would take for her to go to West Point.
Of course once my little girl turns 18, there’s nothing I could do if she wanders into the Armed Forces Recruiting Center and signs her name.
She wants to do something important and I’ve come to understand she has a strong sense of patriotism and a desire to serve her country, and maybe that is my, um, fault.
But I know for a fact that if a day comes when I see her in uniform, polished shoes, and pressed lapels, I will still feel scared — but I’ll be very, very proud.
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