I hate the war in Iraq
By Kathryn Kemp
September 20, 2006 | I hate the war in Iraq. In fact,
I hate any war at all. And it's for one selfish reason:
A month ago I watched my little brother leave for boot
camp, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever
done. He is 18 and just graduated from high school.
But instead of registering for freshman classes at the
University of Utah, he signed up to become a United
I remember when he told me. I was sitting in bed reading
when I got a text message.
"What do you think mom and dad would do if I told
them I joined the Marines?" My heart stopped.
"Did you?!" I asked. I thought I was going
to crush my phone as I waited for his response.
"Yeah, I signed the contract last week.
I was stunned. All I could answer was, "Oh."
In an instant, the 6-foot-tall, shaggy-haired soccer
player who hates wearing shoes and loves picking on
people, grew up. He was no longer a teenage boy who
thought he was smarter and tougher than everyone else.
He was a young man, who was about to find out how tough
he really is.
I didn't want to see him change. I struggled to understand
and accept it, but the hardest part was watching my
parents have to let their son make this choice. My mom,
searching for any thread of something positive, said,
"Well ... now he has to get a haircut!" Everyone
laughed, but only for a second. It didn't change anything.
The day they shipped him to San Diego for training,
my family and I watched him get sworn in. We spent five
hours in the waiting room of the Military Entrance Processing
Station in Salt Lake; sitting on church-like benches
in the center of the room, with The Price is Right
and soap operas playing on a big screen TV.
We had been waiting about an hour when my brother, after
completing his processing, came to wait with us. When
he walked into the room and saw us sitting there he
avoided eye contact at first and didn't talk much. I
studied him as he sat down next to our dad. His hair
was now in a buzz cut and he wore khaki pants and a
brown tee shirt.
Most of all I noticed his face. He was tight-lipped
and serious; his expression was determined. Looking
closer, there was something else in his eyes. They were
nervous and unsure, and he was fighting not to show
his emotions. I stared at him curiously and thought,
how is it possible that one can look like a fearless
man and a frightened boy at the same time?
The ceremony was short. We stood in a windowless room
with seven other recruits and their families. The back
wall was lined with flags of each military division,
the United States flag in the middle. We stood in front
of the Marine Corps flag and watched him raise his right
arm in a solemn oath to serve our country with honor.
The next five minutes were a blur. We took five or six
pictures, gave him hugs, whispered "I love you,"
and watched as he disappeared through a side door without
And then we went home.
I had never before thought seriously about the war until
that day; now I think about it all the time -- and I
It has nothing to do with "weapons of mass destruction,"
terrorism, or democracy. It has nothing to do with George
W. Bush or Saddam Hussein. The question is not whether
I support the war -- at the moment, I don't care. All
I care about is that in a year, when his training is
complete, my little brother could be risking his life,
and I would do anything to keep him from that possibility.
Is that selfish? You bet it is! I want my brother home,
where I can protect him. Nothing else in the world is
as important as that. I don't think I am alone in my
wish. If I feel this strongly when my brother is still
in boot camp, I know I can't be the only selfish person.
No one wants to wonder if they will lose their husband
or father, no matter how noble the cause. No one wants
their son or brother to walk away from home and into
danger, no matter how brave he is. No one wants to sit
and wonder where he is and if he's safe. No one wants
to be on their knees every night, praying that yesterday's
letter wasn't the last. It is on these grounds that
citizens of the United States have something in common.
No matter what anyone believes about the politics of
war, whether or not it is "moral" and whether
or not the U.S. presence in Iraq is doing any good,
we can agree on one thing. We want our sons and brothers
away from fighting, away from danger, away from harm.
If we could, we would bring them back and let the people
in charge do the dirty work.
Of course, our servicemen would never let us. My brother
would never let me take him from his duty. He would
never let what I want compromise his doing what he thinks
is right. After all, it is because people like my brother
have the courage to serve, that it's OK for the rest
of us to selfishly wish they could just stay home.