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Editorial: Many are Called, Many Go

By LC Van Savage

Weíve heard the word ďcourageĒ a lot lately, mostly as quoted by Mr. Dan Rather on his clouded retirement. I love the word and wish I had a lot of the stuff infused into me, but alas, I donít. My courage threshold embarrassingly low, well beneath the wimp level.

Iíve been thinking a lot about that word lately, especially while watching the thrilling televised homecomings of the military people as they arrive in airports and other places. Who, even the most anti-war person alive, cannot help but be moved to tears at the sounds of the cheers and the scenes of those people racing into each othersí arms on the day they finally, finally get home to their country and the people who love them and who had been so anxiously waiting for them? Many of us have never been able to close the wounds we inflicted on the soldiers returning from the brutal, gruesome war (thereís another kind?) in Viet Nam by not greeting them, by screaming filth at them, and worst of all, not welcoming them back home. But we seem to have been given another chance this time Ďround. We can, and do, welcome these warriors home, with love, respect, gratitude and warmth.

Obviously people in an actual war experience feelings of courage in ways those of us who have never battled cannot possibly understand. But I think thereís another courage involved in all this too; itís the courage one must drum deep into oneís psyche by just deciding to go to war. Itís one thing to fight in a war, but quite another to make the decision to become part of one, and itís that courage I salute in this column.

In a volunteer army, no draft, what goes through the minds of people who make the decision to go and fight in a country most of them canít find on a map? Whatís the process? Does one just think and think about going and worry, feel fear, go over and over the options and then finally just dive in and go? I know the process of joining the military is a lot more involved, but Iím talking about courage here, not being fitted for combat boots. Iím talking about the courage in the hearts of men and women who decide to go, not the obvious courage of fighters who are already there, wherever ďthereĒ is.

I wonder how people, especially the young, screw up their courage and decide to fight. And then go do it! It canít be like making a decision to schedule a colonoscopy; itís far more horrific than that. It canít be easy to tell oneís family that oneís decided to go. I understand that with career military, going to war can be simply part of the deal; it may happen. They train in case it does happen. But for anyone having to decide to go, it canít be a decision thatís made lightly, casually; it canít ever be easy.

I know the courage to say to oneís self, ďyes, OK, Iíll go and fightĒ doesnít exactly match the courage of being in an actual raging battle. And yet while itís somewhat different, itís as strong a courage I think, and I commend those who have made that difficult, terrible decision, knowing the end results may be worse than all imaginings.

Watching those brave souls in camouflage arriving back home as they did, hearing the cheers, seeing the tears, the kids, parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, spouses in their joyful collisions has made me think hard about the courage they all pulled into themselves when they decided to go, when even perhaps the decision was made for them, but they went anyway.

How do they do that? Where does that courage come from? Is one born with it or is it learned? Who knows? What matters most though, is that they did it.


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