February 16, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush,

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do after I graduate," a student said to me today, "so I think I might join the military."

I was a little speechless after hearing that and it took me a moment to recover. "Well that's certainly a different direction for you," I stammered, searching to say something that felt just out of reach; searching to say something, anything, that might put that decision into perspective. It left me feeling strange and out-of-place for the rest of class.

But then, riding the train back home, reading the newspaper over someone's shoulder, a headline about yet another troop death in Iraq catching my eye, I realized that the perspective is there, if this student wants to hear it. The reality of what is going on over there is in plain sight, the blood fills the headlines on a daily basis. I can't even begin to understand this student's choice, but there's no way it's been made in ignorance.

It made me think about all the people that are making that choice today, all the people that are shipping out to Iraq as fast as you can train them--a friend's brother, a colleague's cousin--and I couldn't help but wonder what propels them to join up. Do you wonder that yourself, Mr. Bush? As you read your status reports and get briefings on the latest troop deaths, do you stop and wonder just who it is that's enlisting anymore? Who are these people that can make such a difficult decision? What if it was one of your own daughters, aimless after graduation, who decided to enlist. What would you tell her?

Would you too be speechless, searching for words just out of reach?



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