Dear Senator McCain

Mr. McCain:

I voted for you. I convinced my father and my stepmother to vote for you. I tried to tell everyone I knew that they needed to vote for you. I come from a family with a long military history; in my immediate family, my father served in the Navy. My brother serves now in the Army. I would have served, but I turn 35 in less than a month and wouldn’t be able to ship out that fast – the end of DADT didn’t come quickly enough for me.

Imagine my irritation upon hearing that you support military intervention in Syria.

Now imagine my absolute horror upon hearing that you had the temerity to call General Martin Dempsey “disingenuous” because he’s trying to warn you against said military intervention.

I am absolutely flabbergasted that you would support a strike against a strong ally of both Iran and Russia. Even more than that, I am appalled that you would support aiding the Al Qaeda-aligned rebels who would benefit from this. None of this is to mention the fact that Assad has promised that if America strikes, Syria will start firing missiles at Israel. General Dempsey was right – you haven’t thought this through.

How would we feel if Mexico decided to invade the Southwestern US to stop the death penalty from being carried out because they determined that it was a “crime against humanity”? I understand that the details may be different – Syrian WMDs are killing children. The principal, however, is the same. We are about to target a sovereign nation that is embroiled in a civil war. Not you nor anyone else can promise that civilians won’t become collateral damage if we do strike. If any other nation determined that anything we did was a crime against humanity and invaded OUR soil, even if just with airstrikes, you would (righteously) be beside yourself. You would insist that we and all of our allies hit back with such force that they’d never consider it again.

We cannot win this. Neither the Assad regime nor the terrorist-backed-and-funded rebellion can ever be trusted, and we damn sure cannot afford war with either Iran or Russia. I really don’t want to hear that we would only be carrying out “limited stand-off strikes” – once we get involved, we’ll end up being dragged straight to hell. You say now that it would only be limited, but history tells us a different story. You fought in Vietnam. You should know better.

I appreciate your military service, but as a senator, you’re arrogant, lazy, and outrageously disrespectful. I have never in my life been more embarrassed of any of my representatives as I am of you now. General Dempsey has DECADES of education, training, and experience. He has more understanding of the situation in his little finger than you have in your entire life.

I do hope you’re not planning to run again. If I have to run against you myself, I will see to it that you are replaced in the next election. I am ashamed of you and your behavior of late.

Sincerely,

Mel

PS: if I can sit for 10 hours a day answering the most boring phone calls in creation, I’m pretty sure you can put your damned phone down and pay attention to a three-hour hearing about the possibility of my family going to war. Grow up.

World Police

Syria is the hot topic today – Bashar Assad has used Sarin on rebel areas, killing more than 1400 people. Over 400 were children.

The images coming out of Syria are heartbreaking. Previously, President Obama had warned that use of chemical weapons were the “red line” that, if crossed, would result in possible military action against the country. Now that we have footage showing the indelible evidence of chemical weapons being used, we’re talking about going to war with Syria.

They’re embroiled in a civil war. They haven’t invaded another country. Yet we’re talking about military strikes.

Iraq was a completely different story. Saddam had invaded two other countries. Neighboring countries had begged us to stop him. He agreed to certain terms when he surrendered in 1991, terms that he decided to stop living by when Bill Clinton was in office. For eight years, Saddam rattled his saber, deliberately letting out intel that he had chemical weapons (which he was barred from having) and was trying to gain nuclear capabilities. Whether he was trying to scare Iran or trying to stir up crap with us, we may never know; either way, we had every reason to believe that he was a danger to us and everyone around him.

Why are we talking about striking Syria? Well, if you listen to John Kerry, it’s because he’s using chemical weapons and killing thousands. Okay…why do we need to get involved? Both sides of Syria’s civil war are hostile to America. Assad had been spotted having very swanky dinners with Kerry in the past, but he was never really a friend of the US (and it’s an absolute embarrassment to see the photos of those expensive powwows). Assad openly hates one of our closest allies, Israel. On the other side of this conflict are the rebels – who are backed, funded, and trained by Al Qaeda. We all know what they think of us. They made that clear on 9/11.

What do we hope to get out of this? What is the plan? What is our exit strategy? These are all questions that have hardly been entertained, much less answered.

What do we hope to get out of this? Ostensibly, the goal is to stop Assad from continuing to use chemical weapons. The problem with this is that we don’t know where all of them are. It would be impossible to destroy all of his WMD’s. There is no way we’d be able to make sure he can’t use them anymore.

What is the plan? We don’t have one. Obama claims he doesn’t want to put boots on the ground, that it’ll only be airstrikes. The problem with that is that we know that even though we can’t locate all of the weapons, most of them have been moved to civilian areas. We’d never be able to carry out an airstrike without killing at least as many civilians as Assad already has, if not more. The only way to destroy all of the weapons without killing thousands of civilians is to put boots on the ground, something that nobody in our military wants to do.

Seriously. The idea of going in to protect the same terrorist group that struck not only us but Spain and England is detestable to our military.

What is our exit strategy? We haven’t even considered it yet. During today’s hearings, Secretary of State John Kerry has been putting the onus on Congress to call for a military strike, reminding them that they voted to join the international chemical weapons forum against proliferation. Okay…if we agreed to stop the proliferation of chemical weapons, what good would it do to destroy Assad’s current arsenal without making the tyrant account for his crimes? They say we don’t want to depose Assad, but simply destroying his cache isn’t going to stop him from making more and using them in the future (that’s assuming we could destroy his entire arsenal). If we leave him in power, the agreement to stop proliferation has no teeth.

The media is no help right now. Chris Matthews has said that Democrats should support war to save face for Obama. Why do we need to help him save face? He deserves a little humiliation here. If he really was drawing a red line in the sand, then the instant he found out that chemical weapons had been deployed he should have ordered a strike and then announced it to us. This protracted, dramatic act he’s putting on – putting it on hold for a month and passing the buck to Congress so he won’t have to take responsibility for his own words – is humiliating to all of us.

We are not the world’s police. When we went into Iraq, many liberals got very upset, saying that we had no business telling everyone else how to live. If that is what you believe then you need to stick up for that belief. We have no business getting involved in Syria.

The Last Full Measure

In your city, it’s been eleven years since a firefighter was killed in the line of duty. Your department is busy, but you are good at what you do and it’s rare to see one of your own die in service.

A week ago, the unthinkable happened. Now you’re burying your brother.

You aren’t used to standing at attention for long periods. It’s been a long time since you did that. Three minutes doesn’t sound like much until you have to hold a sharp salute for that long. You didn’t even want to think about it because you didn’t want to face reality.

You’re called to attention. You snap to. Heels together. Feet planted at a 45-degree angle. Knees slightly bent. Shoulders back. Chest out. Hands closed, thumbs lined up with the seams of your trousers. You’ve been trained by the military, so you can assume that position without thinking.

“Pre-sent…ARMS!”

Four-count up; open your right hand as you bring it to your eyebrow. Keep your hand perfectly bladed. Straight line from your elbow to the tips of your fingers. Upper arm at a 90-degree angle to your body. Don’t waver, no matter how tired your arm may be. If, God forbid, a tear makes its way down your face, it must go unattended. Your muscles are screaming. Do not break your salute.

“Order…ARMS!”

Four-count. Drop your hand slowly, closing it again when it returns to your side. Hike to your rig, already parked in position for the procession. When you get in, you talk and joke a little bit to try and take your mind off of the gravity of what you’re doing; you do it every day after rough calls so it’s second nature by now. This isn’t the movies – you sit and wait 45 minutes for the procession to begin. After 20 minutes you thank God that the techs fixed your air conditioning yesterday.

The procession winds its way through the city. The entire route is lined with people. It seems as if the city has emptied to pay their respects. You didn’t know that so many still cared. This isn’t a parade, they told you, but you can’t help it. There are kids in the crowd. You wave back. At every intersection closed to make way there is a fire unit, its members lined up beside their rigs. Police squads, even the ones normally off duty during daylight hours, are crisply lined up along the route, standing and saluting your brother.

At the end of his final tour, you line up with your brothers and sisters for a long time, patiently waiting for everyone in the procession to arrive. His flag-draped casket is lowered from the engine. The captain calls everyone to attention.

“Pre-sent…ARMS!”

Four-count up. Hold it. God, it’s hot. My buddy would be laughing and calling me an pansy right now if he were with me.

“Order…ARMS!”

Four-count down.

The bell tolls 333 – three rings of the bell three times.

“Ceremony…REST!”

You relax. The honor guard folds the flag. You see his young wife stunned to the point of being nearly expressionless. You think about how brutally unfair it is to her. You think about what an amazing father he would have made. You silently berate God as the flag is presented. Why him? Why now? He’s too young!

Then you realize: there is never an acceptable time. Ten years? Twenty years? It would still hurt in ways that you don’t even want to imagine. Why him? Because he was a good man willing to put himself in harm’s way to try to make the world a better place.

It’s going to hurt. There is no way to stop that, but you know that your hurt is nothing compared to his wife, parents, and family. There is no way to stop the pain. You know that death is a part of life, but you can’t stop it from hurting – and you know you shouldn’t try.

A lone bagpiper begins the strains of “Amazing Grace.” After one verse, the full pipes and drums join in. You tell yourself to hold it together. When the full corps falls silent the lone piper, still playing, walks away, the fading cry of a familiar hymn echoing through the silence.

You hear the last call. You pretend you aren’t affected. The dispatcher – whom you know personally – calls him by name three times, then calls his final resting place by its address, and you wonder how he does it without losing his vocal cadence. The dispatcher calls the address of the cemetery and announces that your brother’s resting place is exactly where you are standing.

“Atten-TION!”

Snap to.

“Pre-sent….ARMS!”

Four-count up. The bugler plays Taps. This is where you always lose it – at every military and police memorial you have attended in uniform, tears always begin spilling down your face at this part. Today is no exception. Don’t move. Hold your salute, no matter what.

“Order….ARMS!”

Four-count down.

“Dis-MISSED!”

As you walk back to the rig to return to the station, you suddenly feel a pang of desperation. You’re leaving him here. The finality hits you in a way it hadn’t before. You remember when you tripped over your own two feet one night and bit gravel, then heard his voice behind you chuckling just before he ran to your side and playfully did a mock patient assessment, saying, “don’t worry, I’m here to help!” Then he pulled you to your feet and clapped you on the shoulder. He didn’t have to ask if you were okay, because he knew from experience that even if you were hurt, you wouldn’t have admitted it.

With that happy memory, you walk to the rig without looking back. In 48 hours you’ll be back, and you’ll wish he was there. You still have all your other brothers and sisters with you. You’ll carry each other. You’ll never forget his promise, no matter what the cost, to pay the price. You silently make the same promise.