Thursday, February 10, 2011

News From the Front

Tie a Yellow Ribbon, 2006

We got a letter yesterday from our nephew who is about to complete Basic Training in the U.S. Army. He’s a bright young man, holder of a Master’s Degree in History, and a member in good standing in his father’s family’s long line of humorists. He’d always said he wanted to continue his education and perhaps have a career in academia. So it was no little shock to his family when he decided instead to go into the service. He said it was something he needed to do to prove something to himself. He tested so well when he enlisted that he’ll soon be off to spend a year at one of the world’s most respected foreign language training programs.

But before that happens, he’s got to finish Basic training. I’ll let him describe:

“We’ve been absurdly busy lately, preparing for the final weeks. A few days ago we spent 17-18 hours a day at the range, firing day and night. The night firing was TONS of fun. We were able to use [list of advanced technology].

Only two major field training exercises and the physical training test are left before graduation. We can all taste the end of Basic now. We’ve driven by the graduation field several times while ceremonies were being held, and I can’t wait for ours. You’ll have to let me know if I can pull off a shaved head look, as I’m running out of hair to mess with.

We just finished our field training exercise, a three-day ‘camping trip.’ The first day started with a 10-mile march in full ‘battle rattle.’ It’s the stereotypical crawl-through-sand-whilst-being-fired-upon scenario. TONS of fun! Besides, I was too exhausted from the march to be scared.

Tomorrow we get to throw dummy grenades before qualifying with live grenades. Can’t wait to be told to blow stuff up and get PAID to do it! Heck, I got paid to WALK a few hours the other day. Not a bad deal!”

Although our nephew may make Basic sound like a bunch of boys and girls having a good time playing with guns and holographic sights in the piney woods of South Carolina, we know it’s very hard work. Drill sergeants are no less demanding or imperious than they’ve ever been. They’re preparing these kids for service in very dangerous places. While our nephew is off learning foreign languages, some of his fellow enlistees will likely move into the battlefield quickly.

But if and when our nephew goes to battle, I’ll be assured knowing that at least one sensible young man will be weighing the factors before him carefully and using the sophisticated and lethal forces available to him judiciously.

Or at least he’ll be doing this if he can learn to accurately lob a grenade in the right direction.


  1. I wish him well. I get scared thinking of anyone in the military who heads "over there." (anywhere!) We owe them all so much.

  2. sounds like a great young man...