Figuring out what really matters.

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I took the day off today, and went to go see Hurt Locker at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13. It was a very good movie.

Throughout the movie, I was thinking about what being a soldier in combat is like. There are hundreds of thousands of young (and some older) Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan and dozens of other places, putting their lives at risk every day for the sake of this country’s national defense. For the unit in Hurt Locker, every trip out of the base could be their last.

(I would like to leave aside any criticism of the particular wars in which this nation is involved. I have many concerns about this, but most people who are in the army did not join because of any particular military policy position. These brave men and women receive orders from their superiors, and they execute them because it is what their country asks of them.)

I don’t know that many American soldiers first-hand. I have one very good friend who has been serving for the last couple of years. He is an extremely brave and patriotic person, and he has followed in the footsteps of his father who was a career Marines man. I am proud of this friend more than I am proud of pretty much anyone else I know (his wife and new baby boy are also pretty big fans of his).

Aside from him, the closest might be a few Rabbinical students who are considering chaplaincy. I also know a number of people who have joined and considered joining the IDF, but there are completely different motivations and requirements at play there.

Most people I know would never even consider joining the US Military. A lot of us struggle with questions of happiness in our careers. People wonder whether they should change careers because they aren’t feeling fulfillment in what they’re doing.

Problems like these are luxuries that we really don’t always appreciate. Thousands of people would do anything to get well-paying un-fulfilling jobs, and just be allowed to live their lives without having to worry about money. What is it about being a young upper middle class person that allows us to factor so much more into the careers we desire?

There’s no simple answer to any of these questions. The question is essentially “What really matters?” And I don’t know the answer.

All I know is that the soldiers out there in the field are thinking about their lives, the lives of their fellow soldiers and their families back home. Seems simple enough.

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