Rejecting the Mindset of the Forever War

Members of the U.S. Army Drill Team perform in Times Square in New York City in honor of the Army's 240th birthday on June 12, 2015 in New York City.Members of the U.S. Army Drill Team perform in Times Square in New York City in honor of the Army’s 240th birthday on June 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

My daughter was born in the 22nd year of the Forever War, which stands today upon its 27th year and counting. People who should know better may tell you the war started only 17 years ago, after September 11, but those people are likely trying to sell you something, and it’s probably more war.

The Forever War began as Desert Storm and wended its way through different iterations such as Operation Desert Fox, before morphing into the current multi-theater murder machine we know today. It has no Pentagon jargon name any more, not really. It’s just forever.

They came for me just before it all began. I was a newly minted high school graduate, green as new grass, when the man in the uniform paid his call. Saddam Hussein is as dangerous as Adolph Hitler, the Army recruiter told me in my living room, with a huge army that threatens the world. War is coming. If I join the Reserve Officer Training Corps in September, however, I wouldn’t see that war for another four years, and I would be an officer when I did. “Probably,” he said, “it will all be over by then.”

My father heard a similar argument some 25 years before my conversation with the recruiter, and heeded it by joining ROTC before volunteering for Vietnam. A good FDR liberal from the Deep South, where they still remembered the Tennessee Valley Authority (a wildly successful New Deal jobs program) with deep fondness, my father wanted to run for office someday, and you didn’t run for office without time in uniform back then.

So he went, and he came home, but he never came back, not all of him. In many ways, I lost my father to that war before I ever met him. Even then, so long ago, I knew this about him, about war. Remembering, I thanked the recruiter for his time and sent him on his way.

My father passed away three years ago with pieces of his…

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