Friday, August 12, 2005

The Oath his mother cannot understand

I have something in common with Casey Sheehan. It is something that I am now convinced his mom doesn't understand.

We both chose, once upon a time, to say something; something profound and nearly identical.

We both chose to say this small block of text:

I, , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

I took mine in October 1983, as I went on Active Duty in the Air Force. I took it twice more as I reenlisted before leaving in 1995, though I stayed as a reservist for the next year and a half as well.

Casey took his once a few years ago, and again in Aug 2003.

When I took mine, the US was about at the peak of the arms race. I attended Soviet awareness briefings and learned about the mass firepower in conventional, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons arrayed against us in our ideological dispute. I served for many years as a member of the base Disaster preparedness team, learning about nuclear, chemical and biological threats in great detail, including treatment, decontamination and fallout shelter management. I participated in nuclear accident exercises. I also performed aircrew briefings to our pilots who flew into Saudi Arabia and Iraq in Desert Storm. While I never deployed to a hostile zone, nor fired a weapon except once in basic training, I was never for a moment unaware of the fact that I could be tasked for such duties. I saw friends deploy to the Middle East, including one who's barracks was destroyed by a scud missile. I joined knowing all this, and I stayed knowing all this. I made the choice.

It doesn't matter why I did, though:

It could have been for college money, but it wasn't. I got zip. It wasn't for a bonus, I actually got more money to leave then I did to come in or to stay. I joined to be a cop, but ended up a Mechanic, so it wasn't for career. And unlike many of my peers, I didn't join solely to serve my country.

But I did however, join knowing that my country might demand that sacrifice whether I liked it or not, and I stayed knowing that as well.

As it was, I have Tinitus and high frequency hearing loss, permanent back injury and a few other problems which grant me the Disabled Vet title.

Casey, I cannot speak for specifically, but this stands out to me as I consider his enlistment, and later his death.

He made the same choices I did, and where as I did so facing possibilities, and mostly rear echelon support deployments, he did so knowing his unit was heading to Iraq and he would have to go with. He did so, in the case of his reenlistment, in the midst of a war. He could have left, but he chose to stay.

His mother has a pet list of excuses she rattles off to all listeners.

He joined for college money.

So what. He still reenlisted knowing what his assignment would bring.

He reenlisted because he knew his unit would deploy short handed without him and they would die.

Hog wash. There is no enlisted person so indispensable he cannot be replaced with another billet.

He joined based on lies told by the president.

Even if it was true - and it isn't, since no one yet has come close to showing that Bush lied about anything - but even were it true, he still made a rational choice and went.

He held up his hand and swore an oath. He, like me was standing next or near to a flag, perhaps holding a corner as I was when he swore this oath. He like I considered the weight of those words in relation to his choice, he likely felt the same butterflies and apprehension as I did.

But despite it all, and for reasons know only to him, he made his choice.

His mother needs to read the oath, and consider it because it represents why her son is dead. Not lies, excuses, oil or greed.

He is dead because he made a choice.

Its a pity she dishonors his choice with her politics, excuses and partisan agenda.

Read it again Cindy:

"I, Casey Sheehan, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

I salute the memory of Casey Sheehan.