Monday, May 28, 2007

Perspective: A Soldier Drawn by Duty and Changed by the Sacrifice

On the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, Patrick Campbell walked over to the Pentagon and asked if he could help search for bodies. Only if you're a medic or a firefighter, he was told. That day, Campbell decided to become a medic.

So you know Campbell has, as he puts it, "a bad habit of running towards problems."

This country has been at war for four years, and during that time, less than 1 percent of Americans have served in the conflict. Maybe 5 percent have family or close friends fighting in Iraq. For the rest of us, the war is something that happens to other people. Patrick Campbell came from the 95 percent.

He grew up in a house in Southern California where a child wasn't even allowed to have a squirt gun. His father called Boy Scout camp "death camp." When Patrick announced he intended to join the Army, his father tried to bribe him not to enlist, offering to cover civilian EMT training and replace what the military would pay toward Patrick's law school tuition.

Despite his background, despite the fact that he had been student body president at the University of California at Berkeley, a campus where he knew of not a single graduate who had joined the military, Campbell enlisted. He had spent too many hard minutes looking at the "Faces of the Fallen" feature in this newspaper, the gallery of photos of men and women who died because they accepted the mantle of duty, and Campbell couldn't figure out why it was okay for him not to be there with them.

Read the rest at the Washington Post