Musings of a Plane Ride

I have a lot of catching-up to do with blogging, but I do want to write a few words of inspiration that capture a 4-hour conversation I had with a 21-year old aspiring U.S. Army Ranger on the plane home to L.A. for winter break.  He was coming home for Christmas before returning to “Ranger school” in Atlanta for final testing to graduate with “Ranger” status.  At first, I asked him a lot of questions about the army and military culture (which I knew nothing about), but the conversation evolved into a rather philosophical exchange about aspirations, world-views, and humanity.  It was refreshing to speak to such a forthright and down-to-earth individual who approached my complex questions with simple truths.  Hopefully you can gain some perspective on the unique experiences of others, just as I did, because too often enough, we neglect to act in the context of empathy.  Enjoy. 🙂

***

Q: How did you know that you wanted to enlist?

A: My dad knew I was going to do it since I was two years old.  He was in the Air Force, and when I was a sophomore in high school, I knew there wasn’t another option for me.  I had no interest in going to college.  All I knew was that I wanted to be jumping out of airplanes, holding guns, and shooting them for the majority of my young adult life.  That might sound morbid and disturbing to you, but I just can’t explain it.  It’s my passion and my thrill, just as biology and medicine and all that you study and do in school.  But it’s also my job.

Q: What do you mean by your “job”?

A: I get paid and fed in the process of starving myself, getting injured, and killing other people.  It’s my job in that sense, but it’s less of a “job” at the end of the day when you’re just utterly exhausted yet still somehow happy.

Q: Do you also feel a sense of duty for your country as part of your job?

A: When people come up to me and say thank you for your service, I always appreciate their kind words, but I didn’t sign up to fight for my country.  And neither did most of the men you’ll encounter in the military.  Some do it because it’s their last option to make a living wage.  Others like me who enlist right after high school want to be “that badass guy” and live in the military culture.  It’s so unlike any other community.  At the end of the day, I don’t even have a reason for being there except when I look at the guy next to me.  He’s my reason, because I also know that I’m his reason.  And we may never see each other after we’re done with this particular engagement.  But that’s okay because I’ll have a new reason soon enough.  Doesn’t mean I’ll forget about the first guy, but you just have to keep moving forward.

Q: If you went to college, what would you major in?

A: History.  The way I see it, all of the world’s turning points started with war.  And that’s what gets me going.  But I’m not going to college.

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