Over a decade ago, I sat in parental horror across from my son. He was 19 and just home from his first combat mission. We had decided to go out for lunch.
We sat quietly as his leg bounced to some unheard beat; methodical, unwavering and his eyes darted around the room. Every ambient noise that we all simply ignore or not even hear caused his eyes to dart in the direction from whence it came. Every time the doors opened, he instantly glanced over as if on a recon mission to check out if danger was entering the constricts of the restaurant. He was in constant motion.
I had to will my threatening tears not to fall. What had happened to my son?
A few years ago, I facilitated a great book entitled "Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk," written by Ben Fountain. It is not only the most realistic look at the toll war takes on the young people we send into battle to protect us; it is an exposé on several of our institutions: the movie industry, professional football and middle-class families.
It has been made into a movie, which Drew and I went to see. Rarely do I come away from a movie adaptation of a book I enjoyed satisfied with the result of putting it onto the big screen. This was an exception. Both the book and movie elicited the same gut-wrenching emotion, both had you there, a part of the action, feeling it all.
Without giving anything away, I can tell you that it is the story of a unit caught on film during an incursion. The 19-year-old, Billy Lynn, is shown in a truly heroic act. The video is picked up by the media and the unit, especially Lynn, become instant national heroes. The powers that be decide that, since enthusiasm for the war is waning, the unit will be brought home for a “victory tour” crisscrossing the nation and culminating on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, where they will appear with Destiny’s Child during the Cowboys' halftime program.
I can tell you from personal experience, the portrayal of the 19-year-old soldier is spot on.
Our President-elect has announced that he, too, will be going on a “victory tour” to thank those that supported him. Like Billy Lynn, both find themselves in a new and very different environment. Also like Lynn, Mr. Trump will be crisscrossing the nation, standing before thousands of Americans as a representative of our country’s institutions at work.
Several cabinet and advisory position appointments have also been announced by Mr. Trump. He obviously likes Generals. But, I fear — like a surgeon whose natural instinct is to operate to solve a problem — will all of these “strong-guy” generals yield to their natural instincts by urging war?
I recommend the book; I recommend the movie. I only wish that it was all fiction, but believe me, it is very real.