November 20, 2008

I wrote the following note in June of 1991 and sent it to friends and family.

Steven Christopher McGee was born in Kansas on January 3, 1990 at 5:42 AM. He weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces. He is my grandson. He is Andy’s son. His mother, Mystie, and Andy were married on May 25, 1991.
Marybeth, Susan, Julie, my mother and I travelled to Kansas to attend their wedding and to see Steven for the first time. We had a wonderful and very emotional weekend. All seems well with Andy, Mystie and Steven.
I am disappointed with myself for not having visited sooner and for not announcing his birth. That is why I am now writing this. I am very proud that Andy is facing his life and not running away. I am proud to be Steven Christopher’s grandfather and to belatedly but lovingly proclaim his presence.

November 20, 2008

Steven will be 19 years old in January and is a PFC in the United States Army headed to Afghanistan in about three weeks. I’m leaving tomorrow to visit with him at Fort Campbell in Kentucky and my feelings are in turmoil. I am essentially a pacifist and I’m going to the home of the only Air Assault Division in the world. Steven was raised in Kansas and we haven’t spent much time together and I don’t relate to his desire to be a soldier but I know that I love him and I want to see him before he leaves.

November 24, 2008

Steven and I spent this past Friday evening and all day Saturday together with him showing me around Fort Campbell and telling me about his training which he seems to have enjoyed immensely. He seems very happy and is looking forward to his tour in Afghanistan. He talks in terms of spending at least 10 years in the Army during which he hopes to go through Ranger and Special Operations training and ultimately becoming a helicopter pilot. So far he has excelled in every area of his training and was the top marksman in his group. He was one of only 4 of 65 troops promoted to PFC coming out of AIT (Advanced Infantry Training).

I was never able to understand the attraction some boys have for the military life but, having seen the base and witnessed the camaraderie of these kids I’m better able to see the attraction………for them. They basically want for nothing. Their food, shelter and clothing is supplied; their goals are set and their future is relatively secure barring a war. But we are in a war and it looks like it could last for a very long time.

I’m worried about Steven and all the young people who are in this war against a belief, a theory. The theory is that there is a large group of Islamist terrorists who want to kill us and this theory is unquestioned and considered sacred by many people in our country. We don’t know who or where they are but we say we know they are somewhere plotting against us and we have to stop them before they kill us.

It’s all very confusing and upsetting to me and I’m going to stop here because I’m getting angry and I don’t want to write too much about my political beliefs in this piece.

Posted November 24, 2008


My thoughts and prayers are with your grandson, my young cousin, who I don’t believe I have yet had the pleasure of meeting. You will remember my brother, Vince, was an Airborne Ranger …. I’m sure Vince would be more than happy to share his thoughts.
Love to all. Marilyn

such sadness, to realize how limited our understanding of the world is at the end of our teens. One’s own death is impossible to believe.

You do everyone a service. You do Steven a service by being there for him all his life, even when his beliefs are powerfully at odds with yours.

And you do all of us a service by constantly and unsparingly seeking and then speaking the truth.

To behave as you have and still have the courage to call out your own confusion and upset–well, it’s a helluva good example. Thanks for the opportunity to relate to.

Phil, this is a touching entry. The most important part to me was that you went to see your Grandson. I see how my son Drew idolizes his Grandfather and seeks his approval and respect. None of this is articulated but it’s observable. Perhaps Steven feels the same about you though he may not ever say it. I can imagine the complexity of conflicting emotions that arise from witnessing your Grandson as he seeks to excel in a career that supports so much of what you are against. I admire you for trying to separate your political beliefs from the rest of the blog. In some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings he talks about how we might see ourselves as having just as easily taken another course in life that currently seems inconceivable. For me it is not so difficult to imagine the allure of being in the military and I sometimes admire great military figures and am sometimes envious of them. I admire Steven for pursuing his course with some determination.

At the same time I am more inclined to feel anger and resentment towards those in our society who perpetuate the kind of propoganda that controls people with fear. This gets back into the political beliefs you refer to. I’m glad you left them out in this blog entry but perhaps you can go at it in another entry. In the meantime, it’s wonderful that you flew down to Tennessee to see your Grandson. A lot of Grandfather’s are just too apathetic, indifferent or even too old to make the effort.

Love, I am told, is a verb. You were a verb this past weekend.

I love you, big brother.

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