As a follow-on to my previous post about Patriotism, I will tell you about the time I didn’t end up serving in Afghanistan and/or Irag.
In September of 2001 men hijacked airliners and then flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. At the time I was very much more a part of the city. We had a co-op apartment in Hells Kitchen and an office in the garment district. When the wind was right I could smell The Pile on my walk to and from work.
By October war clouds were forming on the horizon, and I decided that I had had a very blessed life, and the right thing for me to do was to volunteer to serve in the military, with the rational that my body would take the place of some younger man who had yet had the chance to have children.
So one drizzly evening on the way home, with my not quite two year old daughter sleeping in her stroller, I walked into the Marine Corp recruiting office in Times Square, and I told the sergeant I was there to sign up.
He asked me my name, and then wrote it down on a form. Then he asked me my date of birth, and when I told him he told me I was too old. I was born in May of 1966, and at that time the cut-off for service was 34 years of age. I remember my head swimming a bit when he told me this.
The wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq did not go well, and to maintain man-power the military was forced to lower their admissions standards to include high school drop outs and convicts, they initiated a “back-door draft” via its stop-loss policy, and raised the maximum age for service. If memory serves by about 2006 the maximum age for enlistment had caught up with me.
When this happened I had to ask myself if I was willing to serve. The shock of 9/11 was now five years in the past, and war in Afghanistan/Hunt for Osama Ben Ladin had metastasized into a criminally mismanaged misadventure in Iraq predicated lies about WMDs that Saddam Hussein didn’t have.
I decide that the right thing for me to do was to not enlist.
On some days I think this was an act of craven self-interest. On other days I think it was the most prudent and Patriotic choice I could make at the time.