Readers chastise Andrew Perzo for complaining about a war his wife volunteered to be in, and for sharing his burden with his daughter.

Published October 7, 2003 6:31PM (EDT)

[Read "Do You Know What 'Powerless' Means?" by Andrew Perzo.]

Like Andrew Perzo I feel powerless about the war raging in the Middle East. Until a year before 9/11 my husband was a reserve Marine Corps officer, whose military specialty was piloting troop transport helicopters. He retired just in time to miss what is quickly becoming the Vietnam of the new millennium. One stunning difference between the two, however, is that we currently have a 100 percent volunteer military. While our armed forces were forced to deploy, no one forced them to join.

While my husband was in the Marine Corps he flew training missions at Twentynine Palms; desert war games instead of jungle warfare. Although his training was choreographed for mock battles, he never lost sight of the fact that his job was to militarily defend the United States should he ever be deployed to a conflict zone. The reserve pay he received every month helped us keep our kids in private school and pay our Southern California mortgage. Yes, the money was good and we missed it after he retired.

My mother's heart feels strong empathy for Perzo's daughter; she's truly the powerless one here. There is nothing "powerless" about his or his wife's situation. She wasn't drafted; remember the U.S. operates a volunteer force. No one forced Ms. Perzo to sign up for the armed forces. Far too many "weekend warriors" and "let the military pay my medical/law school tuition" lost sight of the ultimate purpose for their extra money and discounted tuition -- the possibility of going to and dying in war. That's not powerless, that's self-deception.

Like Perzo, had my husband not retired when he did and gone off to Iraq, I might have lapsed into depression, even feeling powerless. I was not in favor of this war from the beginning. But I would have recognized the real power thieves -- not the president, the liberals, the right wing, the frenzied media, et al. The real power thieves would have been my husband for involving himself in the military and myself for supporting him.

-- Carolyn Burns Bass

I sympathize with writer Andrew Perzo -- I certainly wouldn't want a family member in Iraq. But anyone joining the military should understand that the military is a tool used to enforce the decisions of a government, most often by force. It's not a democratic institution; you can't be a soldier and only obey the commands you agree with or enforce the policies you like.

People who have a problem with this shouldn't consider a career in the military

-- David Ramsey

Note to Andrew Perzo: Get into therapy and unload on your psychiatrist, not your 9-year-old. I don't envy the position you're in. But you and your wife must have known there wasn't an out clause for wars I don't agree with when she signed on with the military. The reality is we are all "powerless to control" our lives and "ensure the safety of" our families. Your wife's safe return home -- for which I pray -- won't change that. We do what we can while life throws curve balls. And one thing you can protect your daughter from is the crushing weight pressing down on you. She's 9. We shoulder that burden. We're the grown-ups. That's part of our job.

-- Michael Fallon

Like the author, my spouse has been deployed to Iraq, and I too was taken aback by some of the advice in the Family Readiness Deployment Guide. My favorite quote from the guide is, "Deployment periods provide a time for self-growth. Not many civilians have the built-in opportunity for the time to take a good look at themselves." Dear George W, thank you so much for taking my husband away and providing me this time for "self-growth." I hope you don't get reelected next term so you have time for some self-growth as well.

-- Kasey Crist

Andrew Perzo seems to believe that his wife was unwillingly drafted into the U.S. military. He is forgetting that she signed on in order to enjoy the benefits that the U.S. military provides.

Did he not understand what it meant to marry a soldier? Was he willing to enjoy the perks associated with her position without sharing in the responsibility of our country's safety.

No, Andrew. You and your family are not powerless. Your wife made a decision that you now regret. The power was always within the two of you.

You should explain that to your daughter.

-- Nico Ortiz

So it's OK to be in the Army and take the check every week so long as you're not fighting?

Your family benefited for 15 years from everyone else's taxes, but you whine about how unfair life is?

As a former Vietnam vet, who doesn't understand why anyone would sign up voluntarily, I understand your feelings. But I live up to my agreements and expect others to do the same.

-- Tommy Johnson

I do feel great pity for Mr. Perzo, and more for his daughter, who is without her mother for a year. That said, why on earth did his wife ever join the Army? Or decide to have a child while in the Army? Sometimes armies go to war; that is their raison d'être, no? And the individual soldier, unfortunately, must go where he/she is told to go, surely aware of this fact before he/she signed up.

-- Vicki Pope

Andrew, there is no draft. Your wife signed up voluntarily.

Soldiers fight wars. It's the most important job we ask them to do.

Your daughter needs your strong guidance at this time. Quit acting like a child and be her father. The only thing that makes you "powerless" is your attitude, which cannot be helping your daughter.

I detest this war as well, and I hope your wife and a hundred thousand other spouses come home safely.

-- Patrick Solomon

I hope that Andrew Perzo's wife returns from Iraq safe and sound. That said, people who join the military should expect to be sent to war. The military exists to respond to any threat to the United States and, depending on the mood of Congress, preemptively respond to a perhaps imagined threat. Joining the military is not just a reliable job or an easy way to pay for college. It is a commitment to fight and die if it is required to defend the country. That is why I am not at the enlistment center right now.

-- Megan Payne

I am concerned about the stories of soldiers and their families who were perfectly happy to "play soldier" in peacetime, but somehow think it's unfair to be sent to do what soldiers are there for -- to fight a war. What the hell was the author's wife doing in the Army for 15 years? She was not a draftee compelled against her will, she was a volunteer. Of more concern is an attitude that soldiers should be permitted to pick and choose in which wars they will fight. Civilian control of the military is part of the bedrock of Western democracy and, like it or not, the United States Congress approved this war. I am glad the author's wife is getting out of the Army, and I hope she stays out.

-- Robert Griffith

By Salon Staff

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