Again, Don’t Thank Me, Thank Your Recruiter is not about the military, much less about war. Readers are no more required to take an interest in such matters to delight in this book than are the millions of Rocky fans worldwide first required to be fans of professional boxing. In fact, whether one shares Conklin’s vision of the good life or distrusts the military and vehemently opposes the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—wars that Conklin believes America was justified in prosecuting and in which Americans like himself, from the love, not of government, but of country, were justified in serving—one can still appreciate, and even fall in love, with Conklin’s book.
The reason for this is twofold.
First, it is a story to which every human being can relate. Despite its particularity, Conklin’s is a narrative that strikes a universal chord insofar as it reenacts the failures and successes, the trials and the joys, of the human experience.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is Conklin’s perspective upon life—his philosophy of life, so to speak—from which any reader promises to reap an incalculable reward. Uniting the emotionally varied episodes that he relays is an eternal optimism that the reader can’t help finding infectious.
Conklin, though, while an optimist, is not a “wide eyed optimist.” He has neither the will nor, given his experiences, the ability to view the world through the proverbial rose-colored glasses. His optimism is not naivety, a denial of pain, suffering, and outright evil in the world. Conklin of all people is all too aware of the brute fact that as long as our world exists, such things are here to stay. His optimism boils down to a faith that, for however dark and dismal one’s circumstances may be at any given time, the darkness is never impenetrable. Light can and will prevail. Yet for this to happen, one must be willing to fight for right.
Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Conklin would agree. The evil, though, is as frequently—and probably more frequently—within oneself as it is outside of it. Nor are those with whom one is joined as a comrade in arms exempt from acting treacherously. This Conklin makes clear.
Don’t Thank Me, Thank Your Recruiter is an inspirational work of the first order. It is the book for those who want to “support the troops.” Yet it is also the book for those who are interested in rediscovering the timeless truth that the only things worth having in life are those worth fighting for.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.