A/N: This "chapter" is an email I received a while ago and I just thought
that it should be recognized.
*****

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is
a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal
circumstances is considered by society as half man,
half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough
to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country.

He never really cared much for work and he would
rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he
has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an
average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year
old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when
he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.

He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz
or swing and 155mm Howitzers.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at
home because he is working or fighting from before
dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is
a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble
it in less time in the dark.

He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun
or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must. He digs
foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he
is told to march. He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but
he is not without spirit or individual dignity.

He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he
washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens
full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never
to clean his rifle.

He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and
fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if
you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the
midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and
weapons like they were his hands. He can save your
life - or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw
half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more
suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime. He has
stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who
have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of the
National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while
tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who
haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an
odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right
to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great grandfather, he is paying
the price for our freedom.

Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American
Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over
200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship
and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has
earned our respect and admiration with his blood.