Our age, our friends, our war

TBy Shane S. Hoefer

The last real U.S. war most college-age people can remember is the Persian Gulf War. Presided over by the first President Bush, we associate that war with easy victories, “smart bombs” and the liberation of a small country on the north end of the Persian Gulf.

We do not, however, associate that war with our friends. This time, things are different.

One of my best friends from elementary school – we spent hours every winter sledding and tunneling through cattails on top of the frozen swamp behind our houses – is aboard a nuclear submarine. Another childhood friend was forced to return from studying abroad in Mexico to report for duty with the Marines. Schoolyard friends, co-conspirators in childhood mischief – these people have left indelible impressions on my life.

A few weeks ago, a co-worker was called up by the Army. Other friends and acquaintances have been activated as well, to such an extent that I must admit I’m somewhat dumbfounded. We’re college-age kids, remember? What happened to being invincible?

I suspect I’m not alone in this experience. On Monday, the Daily ran an article detailing the plight of student soldiers and the realities we former-children now face, “Military activates student soldiers.” Some of us even have families and children of our own.

The departure of our comrades and loved ones is an automatic prelude to war, and the ensuing sadness is indicative of a healthy, feeling, loving community. Never before, however, has the meaning of these departures hit so close to home for those of us in nonmilitary families.

Amid all the protests, all the finger-pointing at the politicians, all the rhetoric and all the worrying about citizens across the globe, we must not forget to tend to our own.

Like it or not, if this military deployment turns into an invasion, this will be our war. It will be our Vietnam, defined by our generation. It might be glorious and victorious, but it might also be unpopular, deadly and tragic.

Don’t blink. Don’t even turn away for an instant. If you do, that kid who walked with you to school and helped you fly your kite in the summer’s bright sun might be somewhere across an ocean, fighting for kin and country street-to-street in Baghdad.

Before our very eyes, our friends, co-workers and family members are heading out to fight on behalf of those who stay behind. The gravity of the situation is immense, but I sense most of us barely consider the subject. Keep watch, and be aware of the faces disappearing around you. If you don’t, you might miss the chance to wish well that now-deployed childhood friend.

For as with any war, some won’t come back.

Shane Hoefer is the news editor at The Minnesota Daily. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]