Opinions While in Uniform

I fear that many in our generation, ten or twenty years from now will regret never taking the opportunity to serve, not so much because they made a conscious decision not to, but because it never seemed like an option, the war was too distant, or the problems were somebody else’s responsibility to solve. When the country is at war, and young Americans just like us are dying overseas, I just feel that everybody should consider his or her role in the effort. I’m shocked at the number of young people who never even consider volunteering, never even notice that a lot of kids are fighting so that they don’t have to. Nobody likes to be part of a failure, but the reality of our situation in Iraq is that if the war were easy and going well, we wouldn’t need the nation’s best leaders to be involved. To borrow Paine’s words from an earlier challenging period in America, this is not the time for “the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot.” I agree that as a nation we probably have a moral responsibility, not to mention a responsibility for own national security, to finish what we started. But on a more personal level, I don’t feel comfortable relaxing in some self-constructed house of morality, insulated from the harsh realities of this world, while other Americans, usually the less privileged, are carrying the burden of our country’s fight. After spending several days visiting the troops, Tom Brokaw looked at General Petraeus as he was boarding a BlackHawk to fly home and said, “I think this is the next greatest generation.” He wasn’t speaking at Andover or Exeter, or looking around at Yale or Harvard. He was in Iraq. Editor’s Note: After publishing a book, Mr. Moulton, marine and Harvard graduate, will return to Iraq this fall.