Saturday, January 16, 2010

Putting People in Boxes

It wasn't until recently that I realized how badly I put people into little tiny boxes, and unfortunately once I've assigned you to a box, you rarely escape. Some common examples of this would be thinking that all chemists have poor people skills or that most asians are bad drivers. (Yes, I said that.) I find myself thinking about how people are "fanatics" about their beliefs or their life styles and the incredibly annoying characteristics that they have because of these things.

Lately, I've been reading a lot of things from Meghan McCain. Twitter messages. Things from The Daily Beast. Basically anything I can get my hands on. Quote me on this: I think the chick is incredible. She’s well versed in political jargon thanks to her prominent father. She’s well educated. She’s pretty thanks to her beauty queen-esque mother. But more important than any of these qualities is the simple fact that she’s not afraid to speak her mind and point fingers at Republicans and Democrats equally.

In my opinion, Ms. McCain is the voice of a forgotten part of our generation: the middle of the road kids. Let’s be honest with ourselves as 20-something’s and admit it: The Democratic party might not be fiscally conservative enough for us, but those radical Republicans that want to restrict our rights and tell us who we can marry scare the living shit out of us.

(Dear Mrs. Sarah Palin, that last sentence was geared towards you as well as other Republicans. I hope you read it.)

Every few weeks, I read something from Meghan the theme causes me to skip over it and think “Gee, I wish she’d shut up about that.” That theme is the military. I have been ignorant and indifferent about the military. I’ll admit it. Now you’re scratching your head and wondering why I was indifferent. Or worse, you’re sitting there cursing me for being un-patriotic. Go ahead. I can handle it. Call me whatever you want. I was undecided about a lot of things having to do with our military, and even less conscious about what’s going on in the Middle East right now.

Sure, I knew a couple of Marines in my college years. All I knew about them is that they were getting degrees so they could be officers. Every once in a while they’d take off and leave for a few weeks or months to go train or deploy. Or there was the token drunk Marine that I would meet while seeing Reckless Kelly play at a dive bar. Those aren’t the best people to have representing your organization, but I suppose it could have been worse.

I did know one man in the Navy. He is the husband of one of my oldest and dearest friends. They were stationed for 3 years at Coronado and when I visited them I thought it was the coolest gig ever. They were transferred to Spain, and although I never got to visit them there I was pretty sure that was a pretty cool gig as well.

I never heard combat stories. I never saw battle wounds. Honestly, I rarely even saw those men I knew in their uniforms. Half of them could have been lying about being in the Marine Corps or the Navy as far as I knew.

Well, here is my formal apology to Ms. McCain and the entire military. I never gave you the respect you deserve. I’m currently in awe.

That all changed when I went to San Diego to watch my cousin’s son, Cameron, graduate from the west coast Marine Corps basic training. Talk about knocking my socks off. Almost 500 graduates were there on that day, and I think they hold these graduations every Friday. That’s 2000 Marines per month that are being prepared for combat, and there is another training ground on the east coast.

I had not seen Cameron for a few months, but I always remember him as a happy kid. He almost always had a soccer ball or game controller in front of him, and he was always polite and talkative. It took me nearly the whole graduation to find him in the crowds of new Marines in front of me, but when they took their tour around the parade grounds and I spotted him I was proud. I was proud to have a Marine in the family.

More importantly I was excited about what his future holds and that he’s excited about it also. He recently returned to the San Diego area for more combat and weapon training. I’m pretty sure I heard him mumble something about being taught how to through a grenade, at which point I piped up and said “I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO THROW A GRENADE! THAT SOUNDS AWESOME!” Thank goodness everyone at the table laughed, that could have been awkward.

From there Cameron will probably go to the east coast for the summer and from there, who knows? But for now, he’s our Marine. He was always special to us, but now I find myself wondering what he’s doing and if he’s okay. (Yes, I wonder that. Yes, I know he hasn’t even left the state yet.)

It’s crazy but he’s different now. Sure, he’s stronger and in better shape. But there’s more. He seems like he stands taller. His stories are intense, but comical. He’s planning for college and talking about the bonus that he can get if he “re-ups.” He’s starting into something that can benefit him in so many ways, and I absolutely cannot wait to see him continue to become a better Marine.

So congratulations Cameron, we’re all so ridiculously proud of you.

Pvt. Cameron Collier
January 15th, 2009
Lima 3242

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