joining the guard

Before 9-11 I was a Marine for 5 years (89-94). When I moved to Eugene, Oregon in July of 2000… even though I was far to the left into environmental activism… I still toured the streets of Eugene on my bike with a large American flag. I got several honks and thumbs up, as well as several comments.

Before 9-11 I would take my flag out to downtown for political rallies also. On Flag Day I noticed that the flag was not being displayed in town and so I again made a tour.

When 9-11 hit, everyone in the country was shocked. There were a few local voices who immediately began the spin that it is all America’s fault and that we deserve it. Yet at this time I again took my flag out to a nearby exit ramp from a highway. I stood there and waved my flag for all to see, gave people the thumbs up, and did what I could do to keep morale high.

I’ve been critical of my country. It is my right to do so. It is one of the reasons why I love this country. But I love this country for more reasons than the fact that I am free to criticise it. This alone doesn’t foster love, it fosters apathy and a lack of citizenship. How can you be a citizen (in the spirit of the word) when you do not love your country? What is a citizen?

When the Marines began to go to Iraq, I sent in my paperwork to get myself involved. I needed a copy of my DD214 to do anything. To get this I have to go through various flaming hoops. When the local unit left and I was still here, I didn’t follow up on the request because I believed that America would go in and make short work of the Iraqi army. They did. Yet now it is a year later and we are still there. Instilling a peace is harder than winning a war.

I was struck by the announcement of Tillman to leave the NFL to go to the Army a year ago. When I heard last week had been killed in action, it brought home what he gave up. Some people have expressed concern that Tillman’s death is elevated above other soldier’s deaths. I dont’ think it is. Every death is equally important. Yet how many people have given up millions of dollars to put his life on the line for his country? This is remarkable and this is great example set for the men in our country. Yesterday, a student at UMASS has written a piece. I’ve read the piece and I do see his points. However the points he is making about American foreign policy drip with his deeper apathy and lack of love for the country. This student does not love his country. There isn’t a single note of love in the piece. He has slurred the sacrifice of all of our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in his piece.

It was hard to look at myself after that. I am capable… why not go over.

I have called the local Army National Guard and expressed a desire to go over. He told me that with my background that I would likely be able to work on Blackhawk helicopters, or nearly anything I wanted. Right or wrong, brash or not, I wanted to be closer. I inquired about the infantry and cavalry. After a good meeting we’ve got a direction we are going to pursue.

This direction is that I take my entrance physicals and such and apply for Officer Candidate School for the summer. It is 9 weeks long. When I graduate (I do not believe in entertaining the idea of failure) I will be a Second Lieutenant. At this point I will be able to continue with college for the Fall and Winter Terms at UO, even getting assistance from Army (75%). I can then go early (Spring) or later (Summer) to Infantry School in Georgia (another 9 weeks). At that time I will be able to join Headquarters Brigade as a 2nd Lt when they deploy overseas in Fall 2005.

This puts my graduation off by a year and a half or so. But I do not feel right in sitting here drinking mochas and listening to the radio while others are out there fighting. I know I did my time, but this is another fight and I am capable.

After I decided to go along this path, I began to think of the repercussions with my family and friends. I am concerned about my father, who got a few grey hairs during Desert Storm. I really wish that I could spare him the worrying about me. I’ve thought about not even telling him about it. Yet that would be dishonest and I don’t want to do that. Eliza is taking it well. She’s smiled and said that she wont worry about it until the day gets here. That is good… that’s my girl.

I must be honest though… I was really looking forward to spending a lazy, lazy summer with her, drinking beer alongside rivers and campgrounds in Oregon. As it is, I might be in Officer training.

But as long as I am being honest… I’ve sinced looked at benefits of this. The pay of an E-6 with 8 years time in service would be welcomed. With this I could pay off every debt I have as well as purchase a laptop computer. Then it would be time for college in the fall, my baby and me would both be students this time around. The drill pay of a 2nd Lt, the work study loans that I’ve got and other financial aid, and maybe a light part time job, and I could quit my job at the strip club. I could have more time with my girl, more time for study, more time with other things and likely to be happier.

Thinking ahead here, what if I went overseas to Iraq and came back after a year and a half with a 2nd Lt’s pay… I could knock out my last year in college and maybe… maybe have some money to begin the process of getting loans, have the VA backing for small business, and perhaps I could find a way to open up my own coffee shop.

That would be nice.

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