I know there are great matters of State occurring, and I know there are important issues which need to be discussed, and I know there are people of stature about whom we should talk, but I’m not going to do that.
I am in Hampton, Virginia – about three hours south of Your Nation’s Capital – to participate in a seminar with United States Air Force public affairs personnel.
I love these young people – young in the sense that at my age, anyone who had been in the military as a career has long since retired to their boat in the intra-coastal waterway, or the golf course along the barrier islands in the Southeast.
I am giving a speech at midday today. I have, as I write this, no idea what I am going to say, but here is what I do know: I will not get through it without (at a minimum) tearing up and (at a maximum) needing CPR because I have broken into racking sobs.
Two seconds after I walked into the Embassy Suites I ran into a guy I first met at “an airbase in Southwest Asia.” A minute after I checked in, I was shaking hands with another officer with whom I served in Baghdad.
That happens when you’ve been around service members. You’ve been with them in places you’d never thought you be in, doing things that you never thought you would be doing.
These are young men and women who have served in places with names like Bagram and Ballad and in places they are not allow to mention in public. They have lived in tents and eaten MREs and been under fire.
These particular people have carried cameras and laptops in addition to pistols and rifles as they have told the stories of their comrades to the moms and dads; the husbands and wives; the sons and daughters who wait – and worry – back home.
My task, at these types of events, is to describe the differences between the way civilian press people operate and the way military public affairs people do their jobs.
There is, generally, a good deal of eye-rolling and shifting about in seats as a nearly-60-year-old civilian who does not hold a position in the government stands up to speak.
That response ends, generally, about the time I finish describing how I qualified to carry a 9mm pistol – and why it was necessary to carry one.
As the debate over Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan and Upper Iguana continues to escalate in the press as – see the look of shock and surprise upon my face – we move toward the mid-term elections, it is useful to sit and talk to people such as these.
These are Americans who have chosen to make their career in the military. Within that context they are as competitive and upwardly mobile as any civilian of similar age, background, education and ability.
But the fact that they have, in an era of an all volunteer force, decided to spend their most productive years serving their countrymen in places many of their countrymen don’t even know exist, never ceases to take my breath away.
As you watch the guests on “Meet” and “Face” and “Fox” and “ABC” and “Early Edition” next Sunday morning; remember there are real people who are out there; real heroes who are not involved in the debate, but who are involved in the war on terrorism.
These people are not sitting safely in the Green Zone of public policy: On Nebraska Avenue (NBC) or M Street (CBS) or North Capitol Street (Fox) or DeSales Street (ABC) or First Street (CNN) having philosophical discussions about the esoterica of US foreign policy.
These are the people who are really out there – in the Red Zones of the world.
I know I have asked this of you before, but humor me one more time: Right now, this second, close your eyes and say a prayer for these brave Americans who, for nothing more than the honor of service, risk so much for the rest of us.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to a description of the USAF Public Affairs career path and a look at the exorbitant pay rates of enlisted personnel; a Mullfoto of Mullings Central and a frightening Catchy Caption of the Day.