It's too late for me
Young, African-American, very short for men, dragon-skin fatigued and spit-shined soldiers.
And every one of them appear polite, soft even, calling me "ma'am", lost, so very young, so very innocent. And every one of them are on the path to become killers.
Every one of them expresses the desire not to kill and yet bemoans the necessity of killing. Not one can explain why it is necessary to kill women, children, men who are not soldiers.
One does point out it is Al Qaeda's fault, for they hide between and among women, forcing US soldiers to kill women.
Every one speaks of limited opportunities; several speak of the 'choice' they were given: jail or military.
I never ask what they were threatened with jail for. They are black. That is enough.
One young man especially touches my heart. He is getting into an old, huge american car as spit-shined sparkling in the sun as he is. His uniform hangs off him as if he's shrunk since it was issued to him. He has looked at the "War under Bush, War under Obama, is STILL War" side of the truck. He beckons me. "Ma'am" he begins.
Daboo and I leave the cool shadow of the truck and walk over in the stark blinding sun. As we get nearer, I notice the pimples marching across the bridge of his nose, resting on either cheek.
"Ma'am" he repeats. "I'm not going to Iraq. I'm going to Afghanistan."
I ask him, like all the others, why. He tells me, like all the others, it's his job, his duty to defend his country.
Wary disbelief floods my face I'm sure. I ask him what his mother tells him. First he says, after averting his eyes, that she supports him. Then, as Daboo and I remain silent, me with a slightly raised eyebrow, the baby with his mouth smiling, he says she really doesn't want him to go. She thought war would be over when Obama was elected. She thought he would be safe joining the military under Obama.
I tell him not to go, like I tell all of them. His eyes widen slightly, as if I told him the sun's not coming up on Fridays anymore. Or even better, I have the key to a mansion with his name on it. I guess it's plantation in this part of the country.
You CAN resist, I tell him. You come from a rich legacy of resisters.
He asks me what else is there for him, what job can he do, what college can he get into and paid for. I ask him what job does he want, what college does he want to go to.
He smiles so profoundly sad. "It's too late for me."
I say it's NEVER too late, even if he gets to Germany, to Afghanistan, wherever. It's NEVER too late to do the right thing and save your soul. I give him my last GI rights hotline card and urge him, no demand of him as if I was his mother, to NEVER lose that card, to call them, now or from Germany or whenever he wants. Just CALL THEM.
I hold up Daboo. I tell the young soldier if he can't stop fighting for himself, stop fighting for my grandchild - and all the children of the world. The children are watching you, I tell him, hoping he will think about this as he leaves his very own youth in the humid Georgia dirt.
He sits in his car for many minutes after we leave. I almost go back to talk with him some more but the baby is fussing now, wants to go swimming as I promised. I wish I could take all these young men swimming in Georgia.