Tuesday, November 11, 2008

“Dad, What Did You Do in the War?”

On this Veteran's Day, I'd like to thank my brother-in-law for his service to our Country. Here is an article he wrote for National Review Online. I think it's a neat story.

Why I joined.

By David French
I woke up early one morning in the fall of my 36th year and traveled to Fort Dix, New Jersey, to take an Army physical. I felt faintly ridiculous, standing there in my briefs next to a bunch of high-school guys who looked like they just left a casting call for Friday Night Lights. They called me “sir” and talked about combat and death while I duck-walked past a stern-eyed doctor, took a drug test with absolutely no privacy, and strained to read the last line of the eye chart. Against all odds, my middle-aged body passed the tests, and a few months later I found myself standing under a blazing hot sun while a drill instructor mocked my inability to execute a simple “about face.”

Why would a 36-year-old lawyer with a beautiful wife and two young kids decide to join the United States Army Reserve? It’s no surprise that the answer starts with 9/11, but it doesn’t end there. Like millions of Americans, I can remember sitting in the safety of my office — watching in disbelief as the towers fell — and thinking, I wish I could do something. But I didn’t join then. Less than two years later, I had similar thoughts. My wife and I were returning from a steak dinner at Morton’s as we listened to radio accounts of a fierce battle against the Republican Guard on the outskirts of Baghdad. I was struck by the strangeness of the moment: I had just finished a delicious filet while my fellow citizens were fighting for their lives against the shock troops of a genocidal regime. Again, I thought, I wish I could do something. But I didn’t join then, either.
As the war dragged on, I thought less about what I could do and worried more about national issues. By 2005 (and the fourth anniversary of 9/11), my family and I were in Philadelphia, I was president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and I was living in the world of ideas. My days were full of media calls, speeches, panel discussions, and fundraising presentations. Everywhere I went (especially on campus), the war in Iraq was the hot topic. Casualties mounted and our unity faded into a quaint memory of 9/11 telethons and Congressional singalongs. Whenever someone asked me my opinion, I always said the same thing: “This is a test of our national character. Do we have the courage to engage in a long war against an enemy that seeks not just to kill us but to undermine our will to fight?”
And then last summer I read about the Army’s recruiting shortfalls and thought to myself, we’re failing the test. But as soon as those words crossed my mind, I felt convicted. We are not failing the test. I am failing the test. National will is a reflection of millions of individual choices, and the choice I had made to this point was to simply stand aside and lament others’ decisions. But that was no longer enough. And so then, finally, I joined.My life changed. I resigned from FIRE — where it was hardly fair to a small and vital organization to have its president subject to lengthy overseas deployment — and joined the Alliance Defense Fund — which is remarkably supportive of employees called to serve. In late May, I left for a month of training at Fort Lee to begin my Army Reserve career.
As a soldier, I have a long way to go. While I passed the Army Physical Fitness Test with flying colors (well, an above-average score), the highlights of my young Army career include an embarrassing fall from one of the obstacles in the so-called “confidence course,” a low crawl through a patch of poison ivy that led to a quick trip to an urgent care clinic, and a truly terrible performance on the M16 qualifying range. But I am improving — or at least I improved enough for the Army to send me on to my home unit for further training.On the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I am spending my spare time completing the second (written) phase of my officer basic course as rumors circulate that my unit may be mobilized next fall. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know two things. First, there is no feeling in the world that compares to the first time you salute the flag when wearing the uniform of your country.And second, I now know the answer to a question I think my children may ask one day: “Dad, what did you do in the war?” I don’t know that I’ll have any tales worth telling, and I certainly know that my own service will be a pale shadow compared to the tremendous courage shown by so many, but I can say one thing.
I volunteered to serve.

— David French is a First Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve, a senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, and a contributor to NRO’s “Phi Beta Cons” blog.

On a lighter note, here is part of an email he wrote while in Iraq. As a lover of all celebrity magazines, I thought this was great! :) David is on the left.

From David French:

My picture in a celebrity magazine. Sabre Troopers live with guys — all guys — all the time. 2d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, is a classic combat arms unit, and — as I’ve said in other editions of GBU — combat arms means all male. Consequently, the guys are starved for any glimpse of a woman. (It is hilarious to watch when a female interpreter or female Soldier does visit our FOB. As the women through the dining facility, you watch guys’ heads pop up from their meals like prairie dogs popping up across the plain). In our area, you rarely even see Iraqi women, and when you do the are hidden behind dark veils. Even if they weren’t, we’re under strict orders not to make eye contact with, smile at, or talk to an Iraqi woman. Such an act of “dishonor” can actually cause violence.
Nowhere is the deprivation more complete than at our COPs. Stuck in the middle of the desert, far from television, videoconferencing with girlfriends or wives, or even from the books and magazines that circulate the FOB, Troopers are left with little to nothing to see or do. So it’s no surprise that when one Trooper’s mother sent him a stack of “OK!” celebrity magazines, they were immediately snatched up, fought over, read, and reread. Features like “Who wore it best?” or “Stars! Just like us!” sparked vicious debates about the relative hotness of Jessica Alba, Paris Hilton, or Jessica Biel.
Two weeks ago, I visited “COP OK!” (really COP Imam Mansour) where the headquarters hut was full of well-read and dog-eared copies of the celebrity fanzine. A friend was flipping through Jamie Lynn Spears’ “adorable” baby pictures when he sat bolt upright.“Dude, we have to do this!”“Do what?”“Check it out.” He put the magazine in my face and pointed to a picture of one of a guy in a hammock reading OK. Underneath the caption identifying him was an invitation to “submit a picture of you reading OK.” My friend was psyched. “If they print that doofus in a hammock, they’ll definitely print a picture of troops in the field.”“I’m in.”We grabbed the Commander of Lion Battery (our field artillery battery), took three magazines, walked out to an armored personnel carrier and took the attached picture. My friend sent it to OK the moment we got back to the FOB with the following message:Dear Picture This...Attached are pictures of CPT Dave French, CPT John Romito, and myself, CPTJon Norquist....some of the most battle-hardened patriots this country hasto offer.
In the picture we are taking a much needed break from constantly pursuing the enemy in support of a major offensive operation against AlQaeda in Diyala Province, Iraq. It was nice to finally wash the blood offour hands and catch up on the latest celebrity child-bearing woes and get a glimpse of the red carpet glamour. Thanks for keeping us in the know! Perfect. Just perfect.
Within 24 hours came the reply from OK: “Thank You! I’m going to put this in issue 36 of picture this! :) OK! mag is happy we can provide you with entertainment and appreciate everything our troops do for the USA!”
And there you have it. My mug is going to share the same page space with the most beautiful people in America (heck, the mot beautiful people in the WORLD). So check out newstands near you.
Now that’s what I call supporting the troops!

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