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That’s Mrs. Buttinsky to you.

April 5, 2009

This afternoon I made a stop at the grocery store – a quick stop, as any trip to the grocery store with two kids tagging along should be. We grabbed our stuff and hopped into the shortest line where our cashier was an older man – pushing sixty I’d guess – and our bagger was, oh, a 17 year-old kid.

And, of course, I walked right into a conversation where the older guy was trying to convince the younger guy to join the military.

I’m soooo not a Buttinsky and I tend to hold a “whatever floats your boat” mentality about most things in life, but this slipped out: “Don’t do it. Don’t. My husband just came home from Iraq.”

Cue the awkward transaction, where the cashier looked like he got his hand stuck in the cookie jar and the young kid asked me repeatedly if I had found everything I needed and gave me “the look” that I’ve come to translate as “Oh. Yeah. Iraq. Afghanistan. Isn’t something happening over there? I’ve never actually met someone involved with any of that mess.”

The entire drive home I was mulling over the interaction. Really, it was none of my business. None at all. But it was the tone of the older man – it was almost flippant. But this is not a game. What our loved ones do, what we do, what our kids experience – this is not a game. And talking about it as a career option deserves more than passing encouragement from someone who may or may not have any clue what it entails.

Is it wrong of me to wish that any 18 year-old kid enlisting should be required to sit down with veterans, spouses or mothers who have lived through sending their loved one off to war?

I think the thing that bothered me the most about my reaction today is that it’s not entirely how I feel. My husband serves his community through the military. I serve my community through my political and social activities. We are a family that proudly serves in many different ways. I could never do what my husband does (really, the first time anyone told me what to do, I’d flip ’em off and walk away) but I do choose to serve in my own way. When I said “don’t do it,” what I meant was “do something, just make sure you know what you’re doing.”

Lately I’ve been reading Naomi Wolf’s – you know, flaming lefty, Al Gore-needs-to-look-more-like-an-alpha-male Naomi Wolf – new book, Give Me Liberty. She spends an entire chapter describing how she tried to track down the actual process one would go through if, say, Joe the Plumber (gah!), wanted to run for a national office like Senator or Congressman. The arcane statures, blind alleys and closed doors she experienced were disheartening to her – as they were for me to read.

In the midst of a fact finding trip to New York City, she happened upon a Army Recruiting Station.

“I stopped in my tracks. Maybe Providence was helping me after all. There was a sign: US ARMY RECRUITING STATION, right there on SIxth Avenue. Not only was there a sign with words – the sign actually showed an arrow, in case I missed it or the words. The arrow pointed around the entrance on Nineteenth Street.

I turned to Nineteenth Street – and how easy it was: yet another sign said US ARMY RECRUITING STATION and had another arrow, this one pointing vertically right to the door. Things were definitely getting easier. There was even a phone symbol  next to the intercom. I pushed it and was let right in.

I had felt at an impasse. I couldn’t really understand from the website what the bills meant that were before Congress. I knew the Chinese consulate couldn’t hear me if I stood in a pen behind the Beast. Mayor   not, evidently, want my phone call, and it was hard for me to speak directly to my fellow citizens in Union Square. My kids would worry if I was arrested for using a renegade bullhorn, and I was a bit scared of preventive detention because I’d read that Sergeant Truizzi’s colleagues now carried Tasers. I knew Tasers could kill. But here at last, my strong desire to serve my country was received with warmth, attentiveness, and practical help.(p.58)

Ms. Wolf obviously did not intend to actually enlist, nor would she have been able because of her age, but her continued description of the respect and transparency she was shown by Staff Sargent Kevin Shockley left her “wishing every door I had knocked on was as supportive of citizen engagement as was the military.” When I originally read this chapter, I was shocked, in a good way. Another liberal gets what my husband and so many others see in the military. I very much want people to have the full story, but I am also grateful that the military allows those that want to serve to do so.

And I’ll save my thoughts about the back door draft for next time, okay? 😉

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jessica permalink
    April 5, 2009 5:54 am

    I think there is a tendency for 18 year olds to enlist based on the romanticized perspectives of the movies. I wish these young men (and women) would take the time to talk to veterans and their families and have a better idea of what they are getting into.
    However I heard a news report that is even more distressing to me. It was about how enlistment numbers are up because of the economy and are needing the money. While I respect those who choose to serve the military, I think many people are currently enlisting solely for the money.

    • April 5, 2009 10:23 pm

      At some point we do need to cover the back door draft here on LF b/c that’s really what’s happening in a lot of cases. No money? No chance for an education? Join the military and see the world. Pfft.

      • snarkynavywife permalink*
        April 6, 2009 2:32 am

        I love it when parents strong-arm their kids into enlisting because the kids are juvenile delinquents, and the parents think the military can beat it out of them.

  2. LAW permalink
    April 5, 2009 11:07 am

    When our son was drifting, not sure what he wanted to do, had the lowest GPA ever seen at the local community college, and after his entire group was “let go” from a local company – we sat down and talked about it with him. This was pre 9/11. Yes, he joined for the education, the money and hoping to find out what he wanted to do with his life. If that young man at the grocery store feels that the military is his calling, is the way he wants to live his life [and the recruiter doesn’t lie to him… that’s another story of ours for another time] we need to encourage him. If he’s doing it because he just doesn’t have anything else to do – I’d question that choice. YES, have him sit down with veterans, so that he doesn’t go in thinking he’s going to be in a John Wayne movie – or Rambo… Enlistment numbers always always go up during a recession. that’s a fact of life.

    Now that our son is an honourably discharged vet, with a PTSD diagnosis [and Deans list/Chancellor’s list in college] – do I wish that we hadn’t encouraged him? I don’t have an answer for that. I’m proud of what my husband does, I’m proud to be an Army wife and mom. But – still… that Iraq tour did some lousy things to him.

    I’m hopeful that liberals will one day understand what we in the military family see. That we aren’t a bunch of jackbooted thugs, that we are people who think for ourselves, that we don’t blindly agree with whatever we are told. Ms. Wolf’s discussion makes me a little more hopeful.


  3. The Army Wife permalink
    April 5, 2009 10:09 pm

    My husband joined the Army post-9/11, not because those events sparked a “calling” in him, but because he was going down a very wrong path and didn’t want to end up like his friends. He joined because he wanted to get his life back in order, and he wanted to make something of himself. He knew the state of our government and the wars were going on, but he joined anyways. To be a better person.

    Everyone has different reasons for joining, and as long as they are thought out and well planned, then go for it. But trying to convince some kid who maybe doesn’t know any better to push your own political agenda, no thanks. I would have said the same thing to him, no matter how proud I am of what my husband does for this country.

    Nice post. High five! 🙂

  4. FOW permalink
    April 6, 2009 12:25 am

    I don’t think I can say it any better than LAW did so I won’t even try!

  5. April 6, 2009 2:31 am

    Great post. I think you are exactly right. People need to join for a reason that makes sense to them. I hope that after they do they dont regret it.

    Both my husband and I serve our country in different ways. And we are both very proud.

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