Total buzzkill

Molly Cahill

Growing up where I did in California, I found there were typically two schools of thought when it came to the military: You either thought they were on par with baby-killers or a back-up plan to pay for college. And up until about two years ago, I have to say I personally didn’t care one way or the other as long as they left me out of it.

But finding out that a guy my brother and I grew up with joined the Marines right out of high school forced me to re-evaluate that stance. And when my brother decided to follow him, I could no longer pretend it was someone else’s problem.

There is no way to truly describe just how haunting a military graduation is to someone who has never been to one. I’ve seen two, and I can still remember the sight of row upon row of faceless young men, some not even old enough to drink, standing at attention on the parade deck. They said it was supposed to be a celebration of boys becoming men and how far they had come, but the only thing I could think about was how many of them would be dead 10 years down the road.

People assume you’re proud and happy that a member of your family decided to join the military. I don’t think it’s really one of those things you can learn to be happy about. Learn to accept that person’s decision and be happy for them, yes, but if you don’t start out overjoyed you’re unlikely to feel that way later.

Knowing there are people out there risking their lives for their country is very different from the knowledge that one of them was once the baby you remember your parents bringing home from the hospital. The only thing worse than the constant worry he will be deployed is trying to keep a smile on my face when people say how thankful they are that my brother chose to serve his country. A word to the wise: Think before you speak. Because not everyone is going to want to hear you “semper fi” them to death.

There was a sort of long-standing joke in my family that if the government ever reinstated the draft, we would be relocating to Canada. I say joke but there is no doubt in my mind about our worshiping the maple leaf if the time came. Most of our friends were dumbstruck to find out my brother had joined voluntarily. I will admit I had a good bit of fun springing the news on people when they were drinking.

The hardest thing to get used to was how seldom he and I get to hang out now. We were always very close as a family and before he joined the Marines, the longest we’d gone without seeing each other was maybe three weeks. So those first 13 weeks while he was in boot camp were difficult. Now because I’m away at school in Ohio, I’m lucky if we can manage to be in the same place every four months.

Accepting the decisions of people you are close to can be difficult and may even change your own perspective in unexpected ways. So don’t buy that house in Quebec just yet. Besides if you think Ohio has miserable winters, try visiting Montreal.

Molly Cahill is a senior pre-journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].