We were always thrilled at IWF’s Women’s Quarterly of blessed memory whenever we could get Dave Shiflett to write something for us. Dave had a piece in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend that I want to recommend in case you missed it.
“While My Son Serves” is Dave’s piece about the families of deployed soldiers, who live in a different world from the rest of us. Most middle-class American high school graduates head for college, not the armed services (though, as southerners, Dave and I hail from a part of the country that has been staffing our military since the republic began).
Many people are willing to put out yellow ribbons for the troops, but how many actually know a member of the military? Well, meet Dave’s son “Sarge:”
Sarge has always possessed one habit of mind seemingly at odds with military life, which many critics insist is fit only for drones. He possesses what we lovingly call a hard head, an independent streak that, as it happens, is an inherited characteristic.
After his enlistment I had to ask why he would join an organization where taking orders is a way of life. “It’s how you get to the big game,” he replied. Put another way, he’s a single young man looking for adventure-and perhaps meaning-and tends to believe that the people who man the office cubicles are the real drones.
He certainly chose an unusual path: Fewer than 1% of Americans wear the uniform these days. That, in turn, puts families of deployed soldiers in something of a world of their own. …
New acquaintances sometimes seem shocked to meet someone with a deployed family member. “I’m so sorry,” is their typical response. You’d almost think the lad was heading into rehab or entering the slave trade. …
Sheldon Kelly, an old family friend who served with the 82nd Airborne and whose own son has done multiple tours, recalls a lunch in Washington, D.C., with professional friends when the Iraq war was at a high point. “They were all war hawks,” he recalled, “but when I told them my son was in Iraq, they were stunned. It was like I was in a different class.” None, he added, had children in the military.
It was appropriate that the Obamas welcomed to the White House on the Fourth members of the military-but I wish the country’s elites knew more of these people, not just at a Fourth of July gathering, but every day of the year. The military is an exotic career choice by the lights of our elites, and that is a pity. Not for the military, which seems always to attract talented people, but for the country, which knows so few of these brave men and women.