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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

350 Motivators
We gathered on the parade deck for our annual run. After returning from Iraq several of us had put on some pounds. The severe diet, a polite way to describe the meager rations issued, that we had in Iraq had made most of us look chiseled and thinner, but now that we were back in the land of the big PX many of us older guys have been reverting to a more rounded shape. Now we had to stretch our legs for three miles and confirm we were still fit for duty.

It's a big field, with a 3/4 mile track inside it. Tents were erected, some sort of dog and pony show was pending. Green hulks dominated one end of the track, self-propelled howitzers, a stryker vehicle, and other largish army gear were staged for inspection of family members or dignitaries of some sort.

On the other end of the field was a strange group formed up doing exercises. Once in a while a gaggle of them would be cut loose and come running past to run little errands. They wore different colored shirts and shorts. One guy had his hair waxed up in a punk rooster comb. A motley assemblage but each of their faces radiated energy and excitement. They were poolees.
Three hundred and fifty poolees, mostly high school students waiting to graduate in a couple months were there from all over northern Texas. Three hundred and fifty Americans, young people, were signing up to be in the Marine Corps during wartime. Three hundred and fifty volunteers who have been watching the news and hearing the stories of the war were there just because they wanted to be.

They weren't being paid. They haven't raised their hands yet. No one could make them show up, there's no legal requirement. But they were there anyway.

one, two, three, ONE, one two three TWO, one two three THREE, one two three FOUR. Three hundred and fifty young men and women, standing in formation doing exercises, shouting out the counts while recruiters sang out the cadence.

Three hundred and fifty patriots there at Fort Sam Houston, home of Brook Army Medical Center, where scores of mutilated soldiers and Marines come for healing. They couldn't help but see some of these that have gone ahead of them, in their wheel chairs, with prosthetics, mutilated features, yet three hundred and fifty men and women were there nonetheless.

They were poolees, waiting to go to boot camp. No one promised them a rose garden and all that stuff. They were doing all they could to prepare for what they rightly expect will be the most challenging and difficult time they've ever lived through so far.

A lot of weasely people in this country whine about this war that is foisted on us, picking nits about whether this enemy or that was worth fighting. Three hundred and fifty were there, signing on, literally, to a plan to fight the enemies we've found so far.

I know where they're going. I know what they'll be asked to do. I know how hard it will be. I know some of them won't make it through their training. I know some of them won't make it through their deployments. I know some of them won't make it home alive.

They're going anyway. And they're so anxious to start, they're gathering from hundreds of miles away, on their weekend of free time, to get an early start.

I couldn't have been prouder. Americans can sleep well at night. I've seen those that will stand watch for the next four years. Have no doubts, we'll be safe.