Friday, September 11, 2009

You Do Not Want To Go To War

I'd like to tell you about the most powerful, most heartfelt, touching speech I'd ever heard in my entire military career. This speech wasn't given by a commander. It wasn't given by a general. It was given by a master sergeant in charge of my aircraft inspection dock.

Over the course of the days following September 11th, 2001, talk ran wild amongst the younger Airmen that this was their chance to go to war and to kick some ass and to have their moment of glory. Many of them were exciteda about the prospect of going to war, especially for such a tremendous cause, saying that this was what they had signed up for.

On the third day after the attacks, MSgt Arrington called us all in for an impromptu briefing. He had had enough of this foolish, misdirected bravado.

He stood before us, directly outside the closed door to his office, and I will never forget the way he looked when he delivered this speech. There were no walls. There was no rank. There was no pride or confidence. He looked like a broken man talking to a group of broken men. He was not a supervisor, not a senior enlisted official, but a human being, speaking from his heart, to his fellow human beings.

He shook his head in remorse as he spoke the first line: "You do not want to go to war."

He told us there is no pride in what we do. There is no pride in leaving our families, our wives who love us, our children who admire us, and our parents who respect us, to murder other human beings who are only trying to do the same thing we're trying to do, fight for the cause they believe is right. There is no pride in having to shoot a child who has picked up a rifle and is pointing it at you. There is no pride in having to see your friends shot, killed, blown up, and slaughtered right next to you.

He said that if any one of us signed up to go to war, he wanted us out of his military right now.

He said that no one should ever want to go to war. No one should ever wish to see the things he has seen. No one should ever desire to do the things he has had to do.

He said that any of us who have been excited about going to war just to prove ourselves just don't know what we're talking about.

He ended, tears in his eyes, by repeating the first line: "You do not want to go to war."

I didn't want to go to war. I was terrified of having to leave Amy behind to fend for herself, to worry about whether or not I was coming home. I was terrified of making her a widow. I didn't sign up to go to war.

To hear someone in the military, someone who had been a part of the first Gulf War, not only echo my concerns, but tell me that it was okay to feel that way, it moved me in a way that no other speech given during my entire time in the service had ever moved me.

This wasn't some pompous commander with an over-inflated ego trying to rally his troops around a some misguided cause. This was a scarred human being in a moment of sincere, unbridaled humanity, exposing his wounds so no one else has to, because no one else would.

Those words still echo in my head as I fight to hold back the tears of the pain I felt in that man that day: "You do not want to go to war."

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