The Young American Soldier
By Ehsan Ahrari
Global Beat Syndicate
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—I was waiting to catch my flight out of Gulfport, Mississippi, when I saw a middle-aged couple with their daughter, about 12 years old, saying goodbye to their young son. He could not have been any more than 20. That soldier, dressed in camouflaged uniform, clearly had mixed emotions. He looked somber and determined. The sense of duty that is the hallmark of America’s brave young soldiers was very much part of his persona.
His mother’s face was grim, but she was wearing a faint smile. She did not seem sure that her son was going to the right place to serve America, but that it was still a right thing to do. His father was trying to be a “macho man,” but even his face was puffed up; he might have cried in his alone moments, but I am sure, not in front of his son.
I remembered another scene from three decades ago, when another son left his home. He was not going to war, but his father and brother were also somber, and his mother and sister were crying. Maybe his mother knew something no one else did: she was never to see her son again. She died within two years of that farewell day when he left for America in search of a better future.
I was that son. But back to my story about that young American soldier.
I did not have the heart to watch the goodbye scene involving that family, so I moved on. But that soldier took the same flight with me to Atlanta. I wanted to approach him and wish him a safe return. But I couldn’t. I did not wish to get choked up and make him feel bad.
Wars are terrible events. They waste so many young lives in the name of causes that only politicians decide are worth fighting and dying for. But seldom do those politicians send their own flesh and blood to die for such causes—mostly, it is someone else’s sons or daughters.
Then I thought of the Iraqi soldiers and civilians who suffered so much and so long under Saddam Hussein’s blood-thirsty regime for not being loyal, for being Kurdish or Shia, or for being a Sunni who did not want to live under his brutal dictatorship.
The Islamist websites of Iraq describe an entirely different world, a world of martyrs fighting “infidels,” and so eager to die. As one such website notes: “O God make good prevail and make the good ones fight; choose from the youth of Islam those who you will love and who will love you, youths who are humble among the believers and strong against the infidels and who will engage in jihad for your sake and fear no blame; …. God: Preserve our leaders, Sheik Usama Bin Laden and Sheik Abu-Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. God grant them victory through Islam and make Islam victorious through them and grant them martyrdom for your sake after long life and good deeds.”
It goes on to add: “O God, grant victory to your monotheist Mujahideen soldiers all over the world—in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Palestine, the Philippines, the Land of Hejaz, Iraq, and in all places where your name is mentioned….”
While reading this ominous declaration, I thought of that young American soldier and thousands like him who want to live, who want to come back to families, raise their own families, and hope that they don’t have to say goodbye to their owns sons and daughters, or to send them off to die for causes for which another generation of politicians would choose to waste America’s young.
These young soldiers did not choose the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but are dying for it. Politicians tell us that America’s freedom is in danger, and our “way of life” is at stake. Let no one dare question these rationales, they tell us
I wonder whether that young soldier will come back. I hope that for him, and for thousands of others who are in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, above all, I hope it for America. Why do young ones have to die for the glory of the old ones who make awesome decisions to go to war?
That young soldier does not know the answer to that question. Nor do thousands of his compatriots in Afghanistan and Iraq. They just want to do their duty and come home to a peaceful life. Come to think of it, so do millions of Iraqis and Afghans.