Friday, August 13, 2004

And Some Come Home to Die

The War Comes Home: Rifleman couldn't take any more.

He felt old, "really, really old," the 22-year-old told his parents that last weekend as they strolled Southcenter, chatting about this and that.

Ken Dennis was fresh out of the Marines, finally out of Iraq, flailing financially and filing for divorce from a wife who ran off with a fellow Marine.

The combat rifleman wasn't sleeping much: nightmares. He had tried counseling but only briefly, then he had given up on it.

"At the mall Ken said, 'I just don't want to see 23 after all of this' -- and then he changed subjects in a second," (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
And when you read the "rest of the story" you'll read the statistics about suicides of those in the military, and those who have returned from the "theater of war". Damn-it-to-hell, I hate phrases like that, those meant to trippeth off the tongue and make everything ALL better. (Ken Dennis alive at right, photo from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Ken Dennis took his life at home after returning from Iraq. He was 22 years-old, and felt really, really old.

I've told this story many times, but maybe not here... of my, as it turns out, own successful attempt to keep my 17 year-old son out of the military. If it bores you please scroll down to one of the more savory political threads. The short story goes ... In 1989 my son (now 32) was bound and determined to be a "man" like some of his gung-ho friends, and hit his father and I up with his idea for "early enlistment" in the US Army. He'd been in Jr. ROTC and had received all the proper mental indoctrination (against my better judgment), and the recruiters had come to school with tales of manly glory and tanks. He needed a parent signature as a minor, and once the raptor recruiters had it, he'd go in as soon as he turned 18. My son already knew my attitude and feelings about military service, but he asked anyway, and said the recruiters were going to come to our house. Our HOUSE, damnit! I told him I would not under any circumstances sign my name, and that if I had enough time, and he insisted long enough, I would take him against his will to Canada. Period.

Well, the raptors came to our house. I refused to sit at the table. And I'm not sure how it happened but his father signed for him. But... by the time his 18th birthday rolled around, he was not so sure. The "contract" was terminated. Almost the end, but not quite. After graduation he was accepted to a military college in Vermont. His father ponied up the money. And I sent him off to orientation week. He lasted 2 days, and called to tell us that it was not a good choice, and he came home. I hugged him hard and told him I was proud of him, and that if there was EVER a draft that he could count on me to get him the hell outta Dodge.

Now you can make of my story what you will. At some point a mother's hands are tied in regard to the decisions their almost adult children make. In the story of Ken Dennis we are not told if he had a fiercely anti-war parent or enlightened witness to counsel him about his decision to enlist in the US Marines. We can only guess all that went into his choice. When you read the story you may as I did think that he might have changed his mind, if he'd known what was ahead.

Next installment is Kate and Mr. Keys' attempt to keep Nephew Matt out of the Army. Your bonus prize for getting this far is a link: A Tale of Two Poppies (which is where I found the animated gift at the top)