Be all you can be… unless you die first

By Claudia Curry

As many of you are already aware, U.S. military forces took matters into their own hands and operated a full-scale invasion of Panama over the holiday break.

While most of us were nestled all snug in our beds with visions of new stereos dancing in our heads, self-proclaimed Panamanian dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega and his forces prepared to defend his proclaimed “state of war” against the United States.

More than 7,000 U.S. troops left their homes and families days before Christmas to participate in the biggest and most dangerous hide-and-seek game of the century, and some of them didn’t return. From what I hear, the American casualties stand at 23 service men killed in addition to the hundreds wounded.

President Bush’s reponse to this tragedy: “Every human life is precious, and yet I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it.”

Yes, we caught a criminal, but what about the lives we lost in the process—23 young men, some only a couple years older than the average college student. “They died heroes serving their country,” or at least that’s how I think the line goes.

I realize some of those killed belonged to elite military organizations that specialize in training for dangerous military warfare. The military was their career and their loved ones knew of the extreme dangers involved.

But what about the young men who joined up with a service to receive technical training in engineering, computers and mechanics and payment for college on the GI bill just like in the commercials?

In a state of war, these young men are not separated from those hoping to become the next Patton or MacArthur. I have a feeling not all the men who risked their lives in Panama knew that someday they would be in that position. I have a feeling that some of them didn’t expect any more action than a wilderness survival or an equipment drill on base.

I most definitely believe that some young men obligate a certain period of their lives to the military simply in hopes that the service will offer them an opportunity to receive useful training and pay for their education later on.

But what if you don’t make it? Not all recruits return in shining armor on the white horse to be dubbed one of the few and proud. Some never get to use their GI bill and become all they can be.

I realize that, just like the recruiters always say, “The chances of us going to war at our current political stage is very, very slim,” but I wouldn’t try telling that to a mother of one of those service men who returned from Panama wrapped up in glory…literally.

I suppose all advertisements are guilty of showing only the best side. Who would want the job you’re offering if you told them all the negative aspects? But why glorify something that has the possibilities of being so tragic. I can’t find anything glorious in a military burial service.

Someday I would like to see a commercial on TV that shows a 20-year-old boy in a foxhole off in some foreign country along with a friend who has just been fatally shot by rapid machine gun fire and hear him say, “Yeah…It’s tough being shot at and watching my friends die…but, yes, it’s worth it.”