I have been on the road, following the "Romney for America" bus-capade in Pennsylvania. Thus as a change of pace, and on the occasion of impending Father's Day, herewith a guest post by Eric McMillan. He is a friend and one-time student in a writing course I taught, at the University of Chicago, who asks to be identified this way:
"Eric McMillan served ten years as an Army officer and commanded a Stryker infantry company in Iraq in 2007. He lives in Seattle and is at work on a novel."
By Eric McMillan
During my last tour in Iraq, I made it a habit to inquire after people's children. I found that by doing so I got through defenses, that people opened up, and even grew receptive to what I had to say. It was a splendid tactic that I used with sheiks and patriarchs and police chiefs. I used it with merchants, imams, mayors, and, sometimes, even insurgents in disguise. It's a trick that works especially well with soldiers, my own as well as Iraqi. In ten years in the Army, I discovered one thing I found consistently surprising: I never met a professional soldier who wanted his children to someday follow in his path.
As a boy, I idolized my father's service. He was a Navy man. Every year at Halloween, I pirated pieces of the uniform he'd hung in the spare closet. My childhood notebooks were full of doodles of tanks and helicopters. I turned every plaything I could get my hands on into a weapon. My father practically dragged me home by the ear one night after discovering me hacking away at the neighbor's prized azalea bushes with a plastic sword. Before honor or duty or country, there was the childhood code of the warrior, the boy's delight in destruction. I was never coerced or encouraged; I never needed to be. Soldiering was native to me.