Surviving the Bush years

ThereâÄôs something wrong, here: IâÄôm getting nose hairs before I get my bachelorâÄôs degree! As I trim and listen to inauguration coverage, I realize that my aged education has everything to do with outgoing President George W. Bush and little to do with my diligence as a student. âÄúWow,âÄù I think. âÄúI survived the Bush years,âÄù albeit not without an extreme prolonging of my education, the loss of my innocence, and a few near-death experiences (along with subsequent addition of a couple of new psychiatric labels). But still, I made it. I write today representing the sole group of Americans who were required to actually sacrifice for BushâÄôs war on terror: the American military. I am not special; IâÄôm part of a generation of 20-something national guardsmen, reservist and active duty soldiers who find themselves heavy on experience, yet, due to multiple deployments, dreadfully behind their peers in the rat race. The Bush years were especially arduous times to be in our nationâÄôs National Guard and Reserve components, dual wars combined with peacekeeping responsibilities around the world demanded the surrender of our personal ambitions, and the military was stretched to the point of exhaustion. For the Guard and Reserve, the Bush years were most likely defined by a cycle of deployments and homecomings and a constant angst over unit rumblings about âÄúthe next oneâÄù on the horizon. It is obvious, then, that this presidency has a very different connotation for the men and women who wore the uniform. Undoubtedly, these were formative years, in a tragic number of cases quite literally, leaving far too many troops disfigured and missing limbs, and for all of us âÄî the tie that binds and bonds us âÄî there is the great psychological weight that we must forever carry. Combat-induced malaise and post-war depression are things that tend not to dispel from your spirit with haste. ItâÄôs hard to admit, at times, but IâÄôm a tool. We all were the human tools of the Bush doctrine âÄî the pawns in the geopolitical and ideological battle between democracy and despotism. We felt the sting of his decisions acutely âÄî almost comically âÄîmore than the rest of the country. IâÄôve read that the Bush years were of great ambition, but without the request of sacrifice from the American people, and I grimace when I think of how painfully untrue this has been for our nationâÄôs military and their families. Just as the use of his tools will define his presidential legacy, our being used as tools defines us, and we share the difficult questions: Will BushâÄôs spot in history, and our own personal contributions, ultimately be a stain? Will our efforts and great sacrifice be written in the history books as a cautionary tale of unfounded American interventionism? Did our friends die for nothing? ItâÄôs too early to answer these questions, but I pray that the answer will be no. I wouldnâÄôt be so brazen as to make universal proclamations about the human effect of the Bush wars; the number of interpretations and outcomes are equal to the number of troops who served. Anyone who thinks themselves an expert on war, worthy of offering maxims, has earned my pity and contempt. So, whatâÄôs the point? I donâÄôt know. As my nose hairs fall onto my bathroom sink, and I realize my place in life has been determined by an over-privileged, underachiever from Midland, Texas, IâÄôm only grateful that itâÄôs over and hopeful for our new president. Ross Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]