June 30, 2008

It's Never to Late to Do the Right Thing

It's never too late to do the right thing -- Jeff Key

Flipping through the channels today, the title of one particular program leaped out of me. Semper Fi. The United States Marine Corp motto, it is short of Semper Fideleous, always faithful. I know this because I'm the granddaughter of a Marine, a man who dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to his beloved corp. For that reason, I'm always interested in learning new things about this branch of the military.
So, I scrolled to the show and pressed the information button. And I was instantly drawn in even more. This is the first-hand, true life account of not just a Marine who was deployed to Iraq with the first waves after the invasion, but of a Marine who was also a homosexual.
Jeff Key served the Marine Corp with great honor. This film is based on the one-man play he wrote about his experience. Although much of the information is anchored around balancing his sexuality with his service, he also focuses on a filthy war's impact on innocent civilians, especially children. As a mother, those thoughts run through my mind often.
The film is poignant and breath-taking. It intertwines with scenes from Jeff's play, news footage from that time and the accounts and recollections of Jeff's family, friends and, most importantly, the men who served with him. Each of his fellow soldier spoke with the highest regard for Jeff, even though most of them knew of his sexuality. As he was older than most of them, old enough to be most of their parents, he served as a mentor de facto for the group. At one point in the film, one of his fellow soldiers says that in the war zone, one's race, religion or sexual orientation did not matter. The fact that he knew Jeff Key would take a bullet to save his life did.
Jeff Key is an American hero. He enlisted in the military for the right reason, patriotism alone. Not that the GI Bill isn't a totally legitimate motivation, but he was already educated and established when he joined up. While Jeff held a great compassion for the Iraqi general populace, he was a fierce a soldier as any. But then again, Alexander the Great and the Spartans are still the greatest war machines this world has ever experienced and they practiced wide-spread homosexuality.
I could write all day long about this film and what I took from it. With the nation's birthday approaching, I suggest this viewing to honor service people past and present.
I made the difficult decision to exit the military. I could no longer be a part of a war that I knew to be illegal under the Geneva Conventions and wholly immoral. It was the most difficult decision of my life. I could not in good conscience apply for discharge as a contentious objector. To be a contentious objector, one has to believe that it is against his religious or spiritual convictions to take up arms against another human. I had been, up to the time of my return, and still was willing to kill to defend defenseless people, protect my nation and preserve the Constitution of the United States. Although it has taken me years to admit it, I probably would have relished taking the life of a tyrant who out of cruelty or greed had caused innocent people to suffer -- Jeff Key
Jeff has also founded an organization, www.mehadifoundation.org, to help alleviate the suffering of our troops who are returning home locked in the chains of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as that of the Iraqis who have no real home to return to. The non-profit organization is named after a little boy Jeff met in a small, dusty town in Southern Iraq who extended kindness to him and the other American troops as they arrived. Go read about Jeff's mission. Better yet, donate. I mean, really, what sacrifices are you making for the war outside of that magnetic ribbon on your SUV. It's not like the magnetic ribbon manufacturers are donating their profits for medical care for our troops, but Jeff is. Like he said, it's never too late to do the right thing.

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