Now picture what this young man should be doing with his time. It probably entails trips to the doctor, hours poring over books of baby names, painting a nursery and lots of hours massaging swollen feet.
That picture sounds perfect, but it is quite different for a young couple I know. The pictures I saw this week of these newlyweds’ life are of a squadron of military helicopters flying through the sky. Another picture, taken with a cell phone and posted on the young man’s Facebook page, looks back at the ground out the door of that helicopter. When that young man from Carson City returns from combat duty in Afghanistan, he will be a young father. While he was away, his young wife will have gone through the joy and agony of childbirth without him.
She won’t be alone: Her mother and many friends will surround and support her. But seeing this situation from up close, it makes me wonder what duty is so important as to drag this young man away from his duty as a soon-to-be father. As a member of the Nevada Army Guard’s Bravo Company, 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion, this young man will be gone for 10 months — possibly longer — so his participation in the birth of his child will be conducted over the Internet (I guess he was here for the really important part, if you know what I mean).
According to the Nevada National Guard website, “The 1-189th deployment marks the 20th major unit mobilization performed by the Nevada Army Guard since Sept. 11, 2001, in support of operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. Nearly 3,000 Nevada Guard Soldiers have participated in the deployments.” The unit was last in the Middle East in 2005, when one of its helicopters was shot down by Taliban fighters and five Nevada soldiers were killed.
This deployment will start with training in Texas, followed by support for combat missions in Afghanistan. Great place for a guy with a baby on the way, what with recent anti-Americanism after some Quarans and other Islamic holy texts were burned by U.S. soldiers. In an incident Thursday, two American soldiers were killed by Afghan soldiers in the backlash of the desecration. This just days after two other Americans and as many as 30 Afghans were killed in rioting. According to an MSN article, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the strategy of partnering and working with Afghan National Security Forces “is not changing.”
This young man told me many times he is eager to see some action. Part of me thinks that feeling will disappear once his boots are on the ground, but I also know a bond of survival forms between soldiers facing life and death. About five years ago, I attended a college football game in San Diego, Calif., where many troops are stationed. I met quite a few young men who had seen Middle East action, and despite scars or missing digits they said they wanted to go back to help their buddies. I shook their hands and thanked them for what they did.
I will always respect members of the military for risking their rear ends for my safety when all I would do is wet my pants. I have a hard time giving respect to the politicians who put them in harm’s way without good reason. On Sept. 11, 2001, we felt like we had good reason. On March 4, 2012, I’m not so sure. We ousted Saddam Hussein and killed Osama Bin Laden, both deemed to be threats to American lives, but what’s left? Apparently something, since we’re still sending young men over there to do midnight reconnaissance instead of midnight feedings.
Nobody forced this young man to join the military. He did it voluntarily knowing the risk of being sent into battle. Elected officials in Washington ran for office voluntarily knowing the risk of being asked to decide whether to send troops off to warm. I’m not sure I’d want either job.
At this point, all I can say it that I hope all the young and old men from northern Nevada and everywhere else come home safely to be young and old fathers. I also hope all the politicians become intimately involved with someone who is shipped off into conflict so they have a full appreciation of the consequence of their decisions.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to help go over baby names — I draw the line at foot massages, though.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.