As I sit in our living room and watch the news coverage of the tragedy in Haiti, I think of the two women last summer who told me in no uncertain terms that my son's choice to become a Marine was a huge disappointment. As though their narrow minded opinion should be enough for me to alienate my son.
You see, in their words "The Marines are the ones who are trained to kill," and I should make my son choose another branch of service...a branch of the armed services that does not train their members to kill.
Oh, the irony.
Anyway, I am sitting here watching my television and I see more Marines landing in Haiti to deliver relief packages to the victims of the devastating earthquake. They are delivering lifesaving food, water, medication, blankets. They are setting up safe zones. They are using their language specialists (because not all Marines merely shoot to kill) to communicate with the locals so that these efforts can be run with the efficiency of any U.S. Military operation. And they are doing so in a country whose own government seems to have disappeared when its people need it the most.
Yes, some of these Marines are carrying their weapons; but they are also carrying hope to these people whose window of hope is rapidly closing. We are seeing pictures of military personnel carrying babies to safety. We are seeing news stories of Naval ships docking and setting up hospitals for the injured. We are seeing members of the U.S. Army organize food lines.
These young men and women who have chosen a career that earns them disparaging remarks are jumping on planes and helicopters to fly to a country in devastation. They are leaving their families to save somebody else's.
And it is not to fight. It is not to kill.
It is to save lives.
It is to deliver the most basic supplies that you and I have at our fingertips.
It is to do what they have been trained to do.
Because our military personnel, even our Marines, are not merely trained to kill. They are trained to survive. And they are trained to help others survive. They are trained to be ready at a moment's notice to go wherever their government sends them and perform the task set before them. And they will do it.
Because these are the young men and women who have allowed themselves to be broken down and rebuilt into the forces our world calls upon in a tragedy.
And when this humanitarian task is done, they will come home to relieved spouses and parents and children.
And people who choose to look at each of them as nothing more than a person who has been trained to kill.
In a year or so, my son may be one of those Marines landing in a devastated country to deliver humanitarian aid.
And in a year or so, my son may be one of those Marines landing in a war zone. Yes he will have been trained to kill. I certainly hope and pray he will not have to use those skills. But I'll say it here and now; if it ever comes to a choice between my son and the enemy at the other end of his weapon, I choose my son. And if it ever comes to a choice between his brother in uniform or the enemy he has been trained to fight, my son will choose his brother; just as his fellow Marine will choose him.
That is what war is, and as long as man populates the earth, we will see the ugliness of war. And as long as there is war, we must have men and women trained to fight them.
But as we are seeing on the news this week, these men and women are not just fighters. They are not merely takers of life. They are also givers of life.
I am hoping that those who are disparaging of military service will see these images of our humanitarian forces and soften their hearts - just as the victims - young and old - of the Haitian earthquake are sure to soften these tough Marines, Sailors and Soldiers.