Front-line state of mind

New year, same war. What does 2005 hold for U.S. soldiers and the entire country? I had the opportunity to sit down with an Army soldier, who has requested to remain unnamed, during his Christmas break and ask some burning questions.

Oracle : How much time were you given off for the holidays?

Soldier: I was able to take three weeks due to some unique circumstances. Usually, troops are able to take about two weeks.

Oracle: What have you learned about yourself from being in the Army?

Soldier: Mostly I’ve learned about leadership, self-reliance, team building and the importance of instilling values in becoming something greater than yourself.

Oracle : What have you learned about other people?

Soldier: The young men and women of America’s armed services are so diverse that there is no one unique trait. Most Americans, especially those in our age group (18-30), are incredibly self-absorbed. Serving in the military is the surest way of destroying that character trait — you learn to live and work for others. There’s also a natural danger in that — the risk of losing your sense of individual identity, personal responsibility and moral values. Luckily, I’ve rarely — if ever — seen that happen.

Oracle : How do you respond to people who don’t agree with the war?

Soldier: I try very hard to respect the opinions of those who disagree with our choices to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes I succeed. What bothers me the most is that the largest demographic of anti-war protesters is that same self-absorbed age group. Interestingly enough, (that) demographic is the least community-oriented, service-oriented or charitable in the United States. If you’re going to claim to support such a wide range of very noble causes, such as environmentalism, civil liberties, peace in the Middle East, better protection for the homeless, etc., at least have the courage of your convictions: Park the SUV, don’t avoid jury duty, donate to Middle East relief agencies or the IRC and, most of all, do something for someone else; volunteer in a soup kitchen, donate blood or organize a fundraiser.

Oracle : Do you think President George W. Bush made the right decision to go to war when we did?

Soldier: Yes. Most people fail to see the connection between the global war on terror and Iraq. Look at a map. Iraq is the crossroads of … the Middle East. Also, as odious as it may seem, oil is a vital strategic national resource. Even if oil had been the primary reason for going to war, which I do not believe it was, President Bush’s decision reflected protecting or securing a vital strategic resource.

Oracle : Do you think our troops are still needed now?

Soldier: Yes. They’ll be needed for a long time to come. Think about it — we’re still in Germany and Japan 60 years after the fact.

Oracle : Do you regret going into the Army?

Soldier: Absolutely not.

Oracle : What are some things you missed the most about America?

Soldier: New York. Home. My family. My girlfriend. My friends. Vodka martinis. Pizza and beer. College football. Beds with mattresses. Commercials (they’re funny!). Those are some things that spring to mind.

Oracle : What are some things about America that you haven’t missed?

Soldier: The constant vicious backbiting from both sides of the political divide. The inability for our leaders to see past their next re-election, much less the differences that keep them from getting substantive legislation passed. I also haven’t at all missed certain large segments of small-minded Americans that believe in relegating various segments of their neighbors to second-class citizenship based on ridiculous differences like gender, religion, race, socio-economic class, sexual orientation or even accent.

Oracle : If you could give the American people a few words of wisdom about the war, what would they be?

Soldier: Everything that there is to say wise about war has been said better by men greater than myself. One of my personal favorites is George Orwell, who once said, “The great mass of men sleep safely in their beds only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Mostly it comes down to — we know what we’re doing. We knew what we were getting into when we signed up. Quit distracting us and let us do our jobs. It’s what we trained for. Oh, and buy us beer when we come home.

These statements may or may not reflect the opinion of The Oracle staff.