When I was nineteen, I joined the United States Marine Corps. I didnít do it for the college money, or to ìsee the world,Î although both of those considerations arose during my service.
I did it because I was directionless, drifting and growing dangerous. I was running low on options, and joining the Marines was the perfect answer.
The Corps snatched me from my hometown, BadInfluenceville, and taught me discipline, self-respect and the true meaning of endurance -- as I imagine it has done with wayward American youths since its formation in 1775.
When I was 22, as a member of First Force Reconnaissance Company I was sent to Saudi Arabia as part of an operation then labeled "Desert Shield." I spent more than six months in the desert, and participated as American forces dislodged Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
The level of professionalism, duty and dedication of my fellow Marines, soldiers, SEAL team members and Navy corpsmen was absolutely astounding to observe. For my part, I performed my duties as ordered, took initiative when called for, and received the commendations and credit I was due.
That having been said, I had my own concerns as to our true motivation for being in the Middle East. I kept them to myself, did my job, and got out of the Marines when my contract expired, soon after the war was over.
I have always spoken highly of my Marine experience, and have enthusiastically recommended military service to young men and women as a good option. I am heartbroken that I can no longer do so in good conscience.
My brother and sister Marines, those finest Americans, are being chewed up today, right now, as I write this appeal, in an unforgiving land far away. They are being killed by the hundreds and maimed and psychologically scarred for life by the thousands -- and for what?
Or, more appropriately, for whom? For the oligarchs. For the elite few, who live in a socioeconomic realm that few, if any, working-class Americans have any privy to.
These men and women, these Bushes and Rumsfelds and Rices, sold the current war in Iraq based on blatant lies -- since revealed to the public as such. They did so for the benefit of the ruling class -- the corporate machine.
And they have thrown my brother and sister Marines' lives away. They have demeaned the very idea of military service, demeaned my own contribution and that of millions of other American veterans.
I conclude with an appeal to all parents of teenage boys and girls. If you have any impact at all on your childís decisions regarding their future, please dissuade them from military service, at least until the current administration has run its course.
And if whomever is reading this is themselves of recruitment age, please, please do not allow yourself to be used and thrown away by those who do not have your interests at heart.
When I was at my first duty station, I received a phone call from an ex-boyfriend of my motherís, berating me for joining the Corps. I didn't understand then, but I do now. He was a former Marine, who had seen the horrors of war in Vietnam, and would have done anything to spare me a similar experience.
I would do anything right now to spare anyone even a day of war. It is the most loathsome event in the human experience, and should always only ever be used as a last resort.
There is no glory in war, there is only discomfort, anxiety, terror and death.
Richard R. DiPirro is a frequent contributor to Connect Savannah. He is a member of the anti-war organization Speak Up!