The orders come down and they say goodbye to their families. They stuff their lives into a duffel bag, their feet into their boots and they go. They march through sand, through jungles, through snow and ice. They do it because they had no other options, because they want to someday go to college, because they want to fight, because they want to protect their country.
The reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that they go.
Most of them don’t talk about it after. My grandfather rarely did. My biological father refuses to even acknowledge his time in ‘Nam. For some, it’s a code – what happened there stays there. For others, it’s self-defense at its most basic level – if you don’t think it, the nightmares won’t come.
My uncle didn’t have the chance to talk about it. My great-uncle and cousin and the boy I grew up with never had the chance. Their marching orders took them to their deaths. They get sent home in a bag, a flag draped across their bodies and we cry. We mourn. We are proud of them. We are angry at them.
They serve. Some die. Some live. And for almost all of them, if the call comes again in the middle of the night, if they are needed, if we are threatened, they will say goodbye to their families, stuff their lives into a duffel bag, and go and do what they have to do.
The reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that they serve.
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