Syria and My Boys

boy and  soldiers 2“It’s appalling to me, appalling to me, that we spend two or three or four weeks debating whether to create a whole new category of war called humanitarian war, rather than dealing with our own problems and trying to solve them.”  ~ Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla.

Syria is suffering. The situation is dire; the stakes, high; the consequences of our choices, maybe catastrophic, maybe not. Who knows?

We get updates, analysis, and speculation around the clock, and from folks far more knowledgeable than me, so none of that here. Instead, I’m writing as a dad—specifically, a dad of sons. It’s my boys that got me thinking about Syria, and now I’m scared, sad, and angry.

First, the scare. My 18-year-old recently sent in his Selective Service card, so he’s all signed up for the draft. I know that a draft is about as unlikely as a spontaneous peace in the Levant, but I still got spooked when he dropped that card in the mail slot.

The Pentagon routinely insists that they prefer an all-volunteer armed forces and that they don’t want conscripts, but Selective Service is still in business, and the laws compelling 18-year-old males to enroll are still in force.

Consequently, there must be some consideration in Washington that a draft may be necessary someday—that we’ll get embroiled in so many conflicts that there simply won’t be enough volunteers to fill the gaps.

The President promises us that there will be no “boots on the ground” in Syria, but once we drop the bombs, everything’s up for grabs. I’m scared because it looks like we’re going to get locked into yet another war at a time when young men (and women, for that matter) are in shorter and shorter supply. Could another war or two exhaust our stock of volunteers? Is a draft possible?

Even if a draft is only a remote possibility, I want our country to stay out of the way of other people’s wars as much as possible. That’s not isolationism; that’s just a dad talking. What’s happening in Syria is horrendous, but it’s happening in Syria. I grieve for Syria, and I pray for Syria. Nevertheless, I would not want my own son to have to kill and risk being killed on behalf of Syria. That’s just the plain truth.

Then there’s sadness. My 13-year-old is a football fanatic and a dedicated student of the game. And when I say student, I don’t just mean stats and records and scores. He’s really a student of play-calling and game-planning—a self-taught tactician, and an astute observer of strategy. He loves to play on the field, but he also loves to play in theory, and he’s never more animated than when trying to explain to me why some quarterback or coach did what he did.

His passion for tactics and strategy makes me think he could excel in the study of military science. That, along with his disciplined character and respect for authority, might incline him to pursue a future in the armed forces. But I would never encourage him to enlist—not now anyway.

The men and women rising to the political top these days—the decision-makers, both Republican and Democrat, who send our troops to war—show an appalling lack of judgment regarding the use of military force. I don’t trust any of them to make prudent, lawful decisions about when to put our sons and daughters in harm’s way. The politicians have got an abysmal track record, and I’ve strongly urged my children to avoid enlisting in any capacity.

Finally, the anger. My nine-year-old son is an eager third-grader who loves to read, ride his bike, and hang out with his friends. He also has Down syndrome, which makes him a statistical survivor. About 90% of babies with Down’s are aborted in this country. It might even be higher than that. It certainly is higher than that in parts of Europe.

The chemical attacks and indiscriminate slaughter taking place in Syria is rightfully condemned. It’s awful and sickening. It has to stop. The same could be said for the attacks on the unborn and the slaughter of innocents that legally takes place in our own communities every day. Then there’s euthanasia and mercy killing. Then there’s capital punishment. All human life is sacred. Killing is always a tragedy. Our outrage and sorrow extends to every occasion when human life is intentionally targeted and cut short.

But returning violence for violence only perpetuates the madness. There must be another way. There must be.

“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace!” ~ Pope Francis


image: shutterstock

Richard Becker


Rick Becker is a husband, father of seven, nursing instructor, and religious educator. He serves on the nursing faculty at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. You can find more of Rick’s writing on his blog, God-Haunted Lunatic, and his Facebook page.

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  • Hope

    I was left devastated watching the video of those dying and suffering in Syria. Praying is so important, but how can we not step in and try to protect innocent children? If I saw your son writhing in agony, Mr. Becker, I couldn’t just stand there and pray.

  • JMC

    There is only one way to end this madness, and Pope Francis knows what it is. It’s that he and all the bishops in the world, simultaneously and in the same manner, consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart. Our Lady promised that, if this be done, Russia will experience a miraculous conversion, and Earth will be granted peace for a time. But it is specifically Russia that must be consecrated, not the world by the Pope alone, as Francis is planning to do in October – and as two Popes have done in the past. If Russia is not consecrated, she warned us, many nations will be annihilated. And according to Sister Lucia herself, America will be one of them. Those who think that those world consecrations fulfilled the request have only to look around. There has not been peace since the time of Christ; there has always been a battle going on somewhere. And Russia is certainly not converted.
    We need to pray our Rosaries faithfully every day. Every…single…day. And we need to make the five First Saturdays with the intention of reparation for sin. If enough of us do those things, then perhaps God will give His Vicar the strength he needs to do what he must. But I am firmly convinced that it is because not enough of us are doing them, that it has not yet been done. Please, I beg everyone, please pray the Rosary and make the five First Saturdays. If you live too far from a church for that extra trip to be feasible due to the price of gas, you can offer the first Sunday of a month for the same intention.
    If you’re already doing these things, then bless you and keep it up. If you’re not, please make an effort to start. If you don’t have time to sit quietly somewhere and pray, then do it while you’re washing the dishes or folding the laundry. Spread it out over the course of the day, a decade here and there, until five are said. When I was working, I used to take time to go to bathroom, whether I needed to or not, just to have five minutes to pray a decade. Find some way, for the sake of our children

  • Zak

    But who do we defend them against? Who used the gas? If it were the Syrian government – it was the worst possible time – when UN observers had just entered the country (literally). There is even some circumstantial evidence linking the rebels (whom would have benefited from world wide reaction) in this case. What about the fact the North Korea has closed down one of its concentration camps and possibly liquidated up to 20 thousand people? Do we also attack there? Why is this other crime not making the press?

  • Elizabeth McClintic

    “But returning violence for violence only perpetuates the madness. There must be another way. There must be.”

    There is another way. Prayer AND fasting. This is how we cast out demons.

  • Elizabeth McClintic

    Is there any difference in their suffering that those who are chemically attacked in their mother’s wombs here in America? Take out the log in our eyes before we attempt to take the speck out of our neighbor’s.

  • Rick Becker

    Thanks for the clarification, Elizabeth. Given the Holy Father’s call for prayer and fasting last weekend, you’re obviously in good company!

  • Rick Becker

    Thanks for your comment, Hope. I, too, would have to do more than pray if a child was attacked and was suffering right in front of me. But the children in that video you saw are not right in front of you. They’re halfway around the world in Syria–a far cry from being “right in front of you.”

    The Catechism has some wisdom in this regard–paragraph #2265 to be precise:

    “The defense of the common good requires that an
    unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason,
    those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to
    repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their

    So, we’re obliged to defend the innocent, but not all the innocent–we can’t police the whole world. Rather, we need to attend to those “right in front of us,” i.e., those “entrusted to [our] responsibility.”

    Besides, we don’t know who the good guys really are over in Syria right now. In fact, it seems increasingly likely that there aren’t any good guys. If that’s the case, bombing Syria to tip the balance in favor of the rebels might lead to more innocent deaths rather than less. Indeed, recent events (e.g., Egypt) would lead me to think it’s likely.

    I’d say we need to stick with the Pope on this one. Fast and pray.

  • Devan

    My 3 sons were the age of yours while our government was gearing up to bomb Iraq. My oldest had just registered and I was sick with worry for years that he would be called up. And, as the war continued I worried for my two younger sons who became eligible for the draft, also. My biggest worry, during that time in their lives, should have been whether or not they were driving to fast.
    Thank you for being the voice of parents who don’t want to sacrifice the lives of their sons and daughters for other countries. Lets keep them home. Their, God given, talents can better country.

  • Rick Becker

    Thanks, Devan. It’s good to know I’m not the only dad that loses sleep over these things.

    We’ll keep praying for peace–for Syria’s sake, for our sons’ sake.

  • RayC55
  • QuoVadisAnima

    It’s not JUST that I don’t want our young people dying on foreign soil that our country has no vested interest in – it’s that their deaths cannot possibly fix the mess that Syria is in. We cannot fix it with our bombs or blood; we should stay out of the quagmire that is Syria. It makes Afghanistan look winnable.