Wednesday, July 4, 2007

AWOL book review

Today is Independence Day, a perfect day for finishing a book like AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service - and How it Hurts our Country, by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer.

I'm relatively new to the culture of the military. Although my husband has about 18 years or more of time in the National Guard, I was very much removed from most of the military culture. Tracy usually drilled 4 hours away from wherever we lived, so I only met the other soldiers and their families for special occasions - Christmas parties and the like. All that changed when we arrived here - our first duty post as full-timers. While there are some challenges, I have really loved it. I love the sense of community here, the closeness with our neighbors, the many smart, independent women I've met. In fact, I recently returned to Bryn Mawr for a reunion (the first I had attended), and many of my college friends complained about feeling isolated, or not having a community of interesting, intelligent women to be around. "Not me," I told them, which it totally true. I wouldn't replace my college friends (or any of my Utah or Texas friends either), but I have been continually surprised by the kind of support and friendship military families extend to one another. They have to find support somewhere - moving every couple of years, often living hundreds or thousands of miles away from family. Plus the deployments - If you don't have a good dose of independence before these, you soon learn some.
Anyway, back to the book. Written by two military family members - one a spouse of a marine (Kathy Douquet, she also happens to be a Bryn Mawr alum - and political campainer for Bill Clinton. Her stories didn't always go down well with me). The other author is a father of a marine; both are well-educated and self-proclaimed upper class folks. As the title describes, the book describes the relatively recent (within the past 50 years) significant decline in numbers of upper class kids who join the military. The authors reported that if you look back to the Constitution, the founding fathers pictured a military that was representative of the population, a citizen/soldier model. They shunned the idea of a professional military class of people (bad experience with the Hessians?), suspicious of the development of any kind of "elite-led caste" that could influence public policy. However, military service was a point of pride, it was an honor to be able to serve our country. The authors noted that this sentiment is often lacking today. The focus today seems to be more like "what can you do for me?" Military service is portrayed not as the "patriotic" thing to do, an honorable way to give back, but a way for poorer kids to earn money for college, or a good trade for people who don't have other choices. The authors clearly pointed out that most current military personelle really do join to serve their country - and this desire to serve is often misunderstood by others. (hear, hear!)
The authors also noted that significant problems can develop if our "ruling class" are not personally invested in our military. It's easy, with the high level of professionalism generally presented by the military, to send them off to solve problems in other parts of the world. Would our leaders think these decisions through more carefully if their own children were in uniform? Would they be as likely to send our troops out ill-prepared and ill-equiped if their own sons and daughters were among those serving? And, with the lack of military experience in our leaders, who will be able to advise them about the feasability of military operations? All great questions!
I can't really do the book justice with just a paragraph or two. I highly recommend it to any grateful citizen of our country. Happy 4th!

Funny things the kids say

My kids are hilarious. They come up with some very interesting statements at times. Thought I'd have a place to record these as they occur. Here's the latest TJ (age 7) comment.

Yesterday he was playing with his feet, flipped a bird with his toes. "Mom, is this an obscure gesture?" he asked. "Yes TJ, yes it is." my reply.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

vacation pictures

Ode to our deceased gerbils

I had a gerbil, but he died.
I don’t know how, I’m mystified!
Maybe my little sister’s hug
For gerbils- was a bit too snug.
We dried our tears and bought another.
(We think it was our gerbil’s brother).
And mom, I wonder how she knew,
That this time we should purchase two.
These gerbils lasted slightly longer,
Grew up leary, bigger, stronger.
But Tylegnaw would rue the day
He ever tried to run away!
It seems his running days were through,
When he ran underneath my shoe.

Concerned our gerbils were too frail,
Mom asked if we would like a snail,
Or something sturdy and robust.
(An exoskeleton’s a must!)
When baby turtle came along,
We were thrilled! What could go wrong?
Our turtle, speedy as a mouse-
We think he’s somewhere in the house.
We’ve left some food out in the hall,
But haven’t seen him, not at all.
We’ll find him, surely as he sneaks.
We’re good – it’s only been 8 weeks.

Our final, lonely gerbil gent,
Was in a little accident.
He hit his head – no, not so wise,
And wound up mostly paralyzed.
Sweet thing, I loved him anyway.
(At least he couldn’t run away).
When someone used him for a seat,
Our gerbil graveyard was complete.

Sadly, there was one pet more-
A hermit crab found at the shore.
This pet had no staying power.
He lasted only half an hour.
It was really not my fault
I added too much table salt.
A cup of water from the tap
Was not his ocean habitat!

I’m pet-less, now, maybe for good.
I’d bring them all back if I could.
Don’t judge too swiftly, for I’m small.
I did my best and loved them all.
And though I cry and beg and moan,
Mom said no pets till dad gets home.
Unless I find a nice bullfrog-
I’ll have to wait to get a dog!

(It is all sad and true).