This generation needs more soldiers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Chris and I knew each other growing up, but neither of us would have considered the other best of friends. We had the same hometown, went to the same middle school, knew a lot of the same people.

Then, a couple of years ago, we found ourselves working for the same company in another Alabama city. We talked a while, became close friends, and a month ago, I stood in a line of groomsmen watching Chris marry his bride.

Tomorrow, Chris reports to Fort Benning, Ga. In seven days, he boards a ship for the Persian Gulf as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.

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Chris called the other day to tell me the news. He was sick about it because he has been married for all of five weeks now. He also just started a new job working for a sister newspaper of The Demopolis Times.

If there were one way to describe my friend, I’d say he has too much energy. He gets excited when the sun comes up in the morning, and that excitement doesn’t wear away until he collapses from exhaustion.

When Chris called to tell me he’d been activated, he had a few words for Saddam Hussein. He’s as eager and patriotic as any soldier boarding a boat, but he’s having a hard time leaving his domestic job.

You see, Chris arrived back home from Fort Bragg, N.C., in September 2002. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he was one of thousands of young men and women who were called to duty in the vaguely dubbed War Against Terrorism. He never left the United States, but he left everything &045; including a fiance &045; behind for nearly a year.

He served what he thought was his tour of duty, and Chris was ready to move on with his new life.

Ah, but war doesn’t accommodate our way of life.

One day before Chris called with his news, I was driving west into Demopolis. Painting white stripes across the sunset’s glow, fighter jets made triangular patterns obviously preparing for some sort of military operation.

For many of you, my brief stories amount to little compared to wars of yesteryear. When the ships at Pearl Harbor disappeared, the United States changed. When the last helicopter left Vietnam, the United States changed again.

Compared to Normandy or Laos, an invasion of Iraq probably seems like a school fight. But I’m part of a new generation &045; one that doesn’t understand the meaning of real sacrifice, especially in the name of a country. That’s why seeing Chris board a bus on his way to war will be tough. It’s new and it’s different, and the only war my generation has known was a 1991 fly-by in Iraq.

I’m proud of Chris because he is loyal to his country. I’m also proud of him because he represents so many things contrary to our generation’s character. He will sacrifice his job for the next year because his commander-in-chief has requested his service. He will sacrifice his first year of marriage because country has called.

Talk about a distinct difference from the majority of our generation. Flip the TV remote a couple of times and you’ll understand what I mean. Turn on the radio, and you begin to understand that this under-30 generation has no concept of loyalty, much less character.

One TV network began a show last week called "Joe Millionaire" in which a low-income construction worker tells 25 attractive women that he has inherited a castle and $50 million. One of those lucky women will marry a nationally known liar.

Joe is a spin-off of ABC’s "The Bachelor," in which an eligible young man courts 25 young ladies and whittles them down to one. Over the course of six weeks, this bachelor spends most of his time groping girls in a hot tub and doing dental inspections in the back of a limousine. And after his six-week orgy, the bachelor picks a woman and asks her to marry him.

If this new wave of unreal TV isn’t enough, our cultural character best can be identified by the disgusting music blaring across radio towers. The biggest icon in rock/rap music is a guy named Eminem, whose music openly discusses hate for his mother. Another popular song includes the perilous predicament of a room getting "hot in here." The solution: "So take off all your clothes."

Thank goodness for people like Chris. Thank goodness some people from my generation have the character to defend country before they defend self.

During his call to me earlier this week, Chris asked that I say a prayer for him. I’ve done it, and I’ll probably do it again.

Yeah, thank goodness for people like Chris.