In harm’s way

I never imagined the time would come when a child of mine would go to war. I lived through my brother Tom’s deployments in the late 1970s through the first Gulf War, and know a little about the emotional toll it took on my mother and his wife. Now, with my youngest son Fisher deployed to the Middle East to take part in Operation Inherent Resolve the war and shifting situation has been brought closer to home than I ever imagined.

Loose lips, sinking ships and all that make me very cautious to even say where he’s going, but it isn’t great and I assume it’s definitely in harm’s way. He was honored to be selected to go, having enlisted nearly two years ago as an “11-brav0“, the military designation for an Army Infantryman, or, as he says, a “grunt”: a foot soldier on the front lines with a rifle, the  main land combat force and backbone of the Army. ” That was his decision and his alone. His test scores qualified him for any military job he wanted, but it was so like him to pick the job that defines the essence of what it means to be a soldier: an infantryman.

Fisher Churbuck

For a soldier like my son, the entire purpose of all the training and the discipline, the early morning runs, the field exercises, and the rest of it comes down to going to war. I grew up in a generation that tried to avoid going to war. I missed having to register for the draft by a few months when I turned 18 in 1976, when some young men were desperate to avoid Vietnam through college deferrals or by fleeing to Canada. It is hard to remember that this country has been at war in the Middle East for close to 20 years, that young men are fighting against an enemy of terrorists in ancient lands where conflict has been the norm for centuries. It’s humbling to consider his bravery and that of his cousin, a Navy Seal, when my own generation seemed so allergic to serving.

One doesn’t read much about Operation Inherent Resolve. I didn’t know it even had a name until a few weeks ago. The mission is stark: :”Defeat ISIS in designated areas of Syria and Iraq and sets condition for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.

Just as his uncle Tom went to the mountains of northern Iraq in 1991 with the special forces to defend the Kurds fleeing the depredations of Saddam Hussein and the Turks, my son is there now with essentially the same purpose. Yes, ISIS — or “Daesh” — is still active and always reorganizing, determined to inflict their will on a population driven from their homes to refugee camps and beyond. Yes, the geopolitical situation is fraught with risk. The Syrian regime has obliterated entire cities and attacked its own population. Russian forces attack rebel groups on behalf of that regime. Iran pumps arms and money into the fray.

But thanks to few thousand American soldiers, a tenuous peace is making areas of the region safe for civilization to return. Without their presence, that peace could quickly vanish. My son is there to protect them, to project the power and morality of his country to a place in desperate need of peace. He’s joining a war that has persisted for too long and I hope his presence hastens its end and that he returns home safe and well.

If you want his address, please email me: david AT