I'm sad now. I'm sad, but it's more complex than that.
I'm still at my school, and I just ran into a favorite student from years past, one who enlisted early in the National Guard. She's just completed basic training, and she came back to say hello, wearing her uniform.
I saw her, and my heart did a funny little hiccup thing, and I gave her a big hug.
Had I realized before how small she is, how delicate? Standing there in uniform, a big smile on her face, so proud of her passage to adulthood.
And I'm proud, too, dammit, because I know this child, and I know that she's done this difficult and--especially now--dangerous thing for the best and most idealistic reasons in the world. She is a young person of honor, and courage, and integrity, and that is exactly why she's in the military.
Of course I'm afraid for her. I'm afraid for her in all the obvious ways, and in the less obvious ways, too, that come from having a bone-deep belief that war can never be what's right. War, I know now (but didn't at seventeen) can never do other than mar even the most honorable spirits who take part in it.
But I can't give my peace testimony to someone else, transplanting it like a tomato plant, potting it directly into a student's heart. It doesn't work that way.
My student is shining with pride and courage and adulthood claimed. And I'm proud, too, because she is brave, and she is honorable, and her adulthood is a wonderful and glorious thing.
But I'm afraid, and in ways that don't translate to her. Maybe they never will; maybe she'll never have that moment I've heard others I love speak of, of firing a gun with the intention of ending another human life.
Maybe the military will not break something in my student, my child. Maybe.
I feel today like a parent whose child has brought them a wonderful gift, made by their own hands, and who has seen that gift dropped and marred before it could even be given. A crack runs through it now, and I have no way of knowing how wide it truly is.
And I'm thinking: Not my child, O God... Not my child! Let her return safe; let her be in all ways whole.