I Once Knew a Boy Who Wanted to Go to War
Lately my mind has been consumed by thoughts of war, the military, and the psyche required to be a competent soldier.
Maybe this fixation was spurred on by the Marine half of the couple in the movie Purple Hearts (you can read my thoughts on that movie here). Or perhaps the niggling in my mind has to do with the ongoing war in Ukraine — as well as other conflicts existing beyond the shores of the good ol’ US of A.
I don’t mean to be flippant or disrespectful, but I’ve never actually understood the kind of mind-set that triggers someone into wanting to join a branch of the military.
I’ve wondered ever since high school when one of the boys in my class was adamant that he would join the Marine Corps after he graduated high school — despite the fact that his mother was totally against it. But I suppose he was a little starstruck by the fact that his big brother was serving overseas at the time and had many, many stories to tell. I don’t know if I ever really got the impression that he seriously understood the implications of what being a soldier would mean.
One year, I got his name in the Christmas grab-bag. On his wish list? Anything from the local army supply store. The first time I stepped into the place — to get a gift certificate for him — I found myself face-to-face with things I’d never seen beyond movies: guns on the walls, military fatigues on clothing racks, bulletproof vests, and an array of items I’d think were only necessary on a real battlefield during war times.
The idea that everyday people could come in at any time and buy these things disturbed me a little. Why would anyone need these things unless they were going into a war zone? But these sights are now commonplace in news stories about civilian militias cropping up all around the country. These supply stores may be doing even better business in these strange times we live in.
But let’s get back to the boy. Even though he was quiet and passably likable, the military obsession of his did tend to make people shy away a little bit. Maybe some people like me were a little afraid of his hope in wanting to go off and fight needless wars in faraway lands. In…