Yesterday afternoon I was traveling back to Cleveland from a conference at UNC-Chapel Hill. While waiting in the lounge at the Raleigh airport, I witnessed several good-looking young men, in civilian clothes, but obviously military, from the haircuts, US Marine Corps t-shirts, camo backpacks, and bravado. Three were traveling together and a fourth was by himself. I’m guessing from listening to their conversation that they had just graduated from basic training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They cannot have been more than 18 or maybe 19 years old.
What struck me, though, was that even through all their tough talk, just how fragile they all looked. These were not Bruce Willis action hero guys, these were tall skinny teens listening to their iPods; one was simultaneously talking on his cellphone while texting somebody else. That one had managed to put into his backpack a tube of toothpaste that had leaked all over his laptop and Sony PSP. The fourth boy, not in the other trio, seemed particularly shy and vulnerable, as he sat and watched the antics of the other group.
As I was watching this Abercrombie and Fitch ad come to life, I got to thinking that these boys are the next wave of fresh meat to be shipped off to be shot at in Iraq. My next set of thoughts were how they will be affected by the experience: will they be killed? wounded? suffer from lifelong post-traumatic stress disorder. And all for what? To satisfy the testosterone-heavy ego of someone who avoided real service.
I was sad. What a waste of lives and resources.