The only feeling I've ever had that was more surreal than arriving in a war zone was returning from one.Now as a student majoring in international politics and security studies at Georgetown, Quinn feels the same disconnect with the war among his peers on campus.
I came home on R&R in 2005 after eight months in Iraq. Heading for the baggage claim in Detroit, I watched travelers walking and talking on their cellphones, chatting with friends and acting just the way people had before I'd left for Baghdad. The war didn't just seem to be taking place in another country; it seemed to be taking place in another universe. There I was, in desert camouflage, wondering how all the intensity, the violence, the tears and the killing of Iraq could really be happening at the same time that all these people were hurrying to catch their flights to Las Vegas or Los Angeles or wherever.
I find it frustrating that Facebook is a bigger part of most students' lives than the war. After my first semester, I decided to rejoin the Army by signing up with the ROTC. I felt a bit guilty for having done only one tour in Iraq while friends of mine have done two or three. And I didn't want to forget the war. I may be prejudiced, but many of my college peers seem self-absorbed. I didn't want to end up like that.As one of those students, I have to admit that at first I felt a little defensive about William's op-ed. But as these thoughts sank in I began to accept them as accurate. Indeed, the college life is a far cry from military service, and our responsibilities are different. College is a duty to one's self, whereas the military is a duty to one's country. Serving in this country's armed forces requires a selflessness that others probably don't understand. Today, we honor their courage and their call to duty.
...Nonetheless, the Army's values are important to soldiers. They may not always live up to them, but they do when it matters most. Soldiers are selfless; they are courageous; they are loyal. The most interesting intellectual conversations I've had have been with others in the military. They discuss things not to impress you but because they're trying to figure them out. They're faced with difficult situations, and they want to make sense of them. Though many privately question our government's policies, they do their duty, which lies beyond the political debate.
This culture of duty is at odds with the culture of individualism and self-promotion that seems paramount here in college.