I wrote late last winter about my son, Luke, who was then eighteen and being seduced by recruiters from the Marine Corps. And yes, “seduced” is the word. The combination of promises and gifts, the flattery, even while tapping his insecurities; the whole thing looked like nothing if not the wiles of a seducer. And when they got what they want from him -not sex, in this case, but a signature- he would be discarded and they would move on to their next conquest.
I tried to talk him out of it. I told him to get everything in writing, that their promises were not binding once he signed his name. And I talked to him about war, mentioning the young man from our parish who had enlisted in the Army right out of high school, who had been promised premed training and instead had been shipped out to Iraq during the height of the post-invasion insurgency; how he had returned home broken and bitter.
But he would hear none of it. He was dazzled by these young recruiters. I imagine that the military is like religious orders or dioceses, that they choose the most charismatic of their young men to enlist others. I was no match for these Marines, so focused, so disciplined and fit, so together.
Then by the grace of God Luke was busted for underage drinking.
Let me explain. The court fined him, which is inherently unjust; a $200 fine is nothing to an affluent kid, but to one working minimum wage is a significant burden. But he also was assigned to do community service at the local Salvation Army.
One night the husband of a woman who worked there offered him a ride home. The man was a veteran, and had been a Navy Seal in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Luke learned this, he began talking about his aspirations.
And he got an earful.
The young veteran told him of the horrors of war, how things done in fear in the midst of an insurgency, when the enemy does not wear a uniform, would haunt him the rest of his life. He said that he had returned home traumatized, that it strained his marriage. And he told my son that the military basically spit you out after they had chewed you up. He said that he would need treatment for years.
He really didn’t tell Luke anything I hadn’t, but he had credibility that I did not. And he was every bit as fit, as tough, and as focused as the recruiters.
Luke has not mentioned the Marines since that night.
Thanks be to God, who heard our prayers.