That’s Mrs. Buttinsky to you.
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? 😉