They Won't Be Home For Christmas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I just flipped on the television and caught the end of some news show. They were letting American soldiers stationed in the Persian Gulf send quick holiday messages to family and friends back home. Never was the Gulf crisis more real to me than in those moments. Real men and women sending messages of love to spouses and children they aren't certain they'll ever see again. From the start I've objected to sending troops to the Gulf, feeling it was out of our jurisdiction, and not our responsibility, but it took seeing these men, this boy laughing ruefully, as he intoned "Wish I was there" in a message to his wife and the newborn son he may never lay eyes on to really convince me. I don't know that soldier's name, or anything about him, but at that moment I would have given anything to see him safely returned home. And that was when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our country was wrong.

It's about time America stops fancying itself the world's peacemaker. How is it that our economy is in a recession, we can't afford to feed and shelter our poor, and our educational system is falling apart, yet we have billions of dollars to ship halfway across the world, along with hundreds of thousands of first-class citizens? The economic implications of losing access to Kuwaiti oil is often cited as a main concern, but the financial burden of a war must easily equal the cost of such a loss.

A lot of people figure it's okay because there's no draft. No one's being forced over there. The people who are there should have expected that when they signed up for the army, or the reserves, or whatever. But, come on, you've seen those ads. Those "Be all you can be" deals. They say join the Army and get money for college, or join the Army and get a job once you're out. They say join the Reserves and spend one weekend a month serving your country to earn your college tuition. What exactly they mean by "serving your country" is never quite clear, but to judge from the accompanying pictures, much of it involves flying in hot air balloons and bonding with friends. Nothing about dying in combat in a sweltering mid-eastern desert. Nothing. I went back and checked.

So, all of you out there who think Bush is doing the right thing, who can ignore that it might have been a badly miscalculated ploy to raise opinion polls in his favor and who feel the United States has some kind of inherent responsibility to protect underdogs throughout the world, well, sorry to burst your bubble. The fact is, in these troubled times, our first responsibility is to ourselves. And to a nameless soldier from Somewhere, America, whose face is forever burned in my memory. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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