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J.D. Pendry


You are a product of the choices you make.We all are, individually and collectively.If you have trouble accepting that, then describe for me a situation youíve been in, something you own, some problem youíve had or virtually anything else that cannot be traced to a choice made by you.Some of us have trouble with that because itís easier to blame our predicaments on others or on situations we believe we canít control.Iíve done it.Youíve done it.Itís easier to place blame on someone or something else than it is to admit that you didnít carefully weigh the choice you made.Letís review some examples.


Would you have lit your first cigarette if you saw a picture of yourself carrying your portable respirator slowly dieing from emphysema?Would you have jumped in the sack with that hooker if you could see yourself dieing from AIDS?Would you have abused drugs if you could see yourself as a hopeless addict spending your days focused only on doing whatís necessary to obtain drugs to support your habit?Would you have been behind the wheel of that car after drinking if you could see the death caused by the accident resulting from your intoxication?


All of us answer no to the questions, but many of us still make those type choices everyday.I know those are the extremes, but sometimes a rock in the head is whatís needed to stimulate some thought.Now letís consider some other things.


Recently, I read some news articles, local and national, on the dilemma faced by reservists activated for the war.The issue is that some reservists are losing much income while activated and that makes it unfair to them.My reaction is that they are in their predicament because they chose to be military reservists and they should have considered the realities of being reservists before making the choice.People complain daily about being in the Army and Iím sure that most of you tell them that they chose to be in the Army so suck it up.Soon as theyíre out of your ear shot, they start whining, ďSure, I chose to be in the Army, butÖĒItís the but that really gets to me.Why?Simple.Not fully understanding or accepting the realities of being in the Army - the but - was another choice made.


In my younger days, as a Drill Sergeant, I taught a class called ďResponsibilities of a SoldierĒ.The point of the class is that a person has to be responsible and accept responsibility for the choices they make.I realize in our kinder-gentler, concern for self-esteem world that we are coached to look for reasons why a soldier made choice A rather than B.When we do that, we contribute to the individualís failure to accept responsibility for the choice made.


People tell you they want complete honesty from you, but the truth is they probably donít.Instead they look for sympathy from you or your assistance in placing the blame for their problems elsewhere.Most do not want you to tell them the problem is of their doing.Think about the last time you counseled a soldier for being over fat.Did you look him or her in the eye and say, ďYou are over fat because you choose to be?ĒWhatever the problem, give the soldier all the help you can, but ensure that you put the monkey on his or her back to accept responsibility for the situation.


Sometimes, leaders and others of prominence in positions of mass influence make choices that affect many or contribute to choices made by individuals.For example, the news media has not reported a good news story about Iraq that I can recall, although there are good things happening there each day.The constant negative news reporting about Vietnam was much the same and virtually drove an entire nation to choose to not support our soldiers.The rhetoric from the Democrat presidential candidates is similar.The constant negative slams against our leadership and our country will sway some to make the wrong choice about supporting the war against terrorism taking place in Afghanistan and Iraq.The ramifications of making the wrong choice means that we choose to fight in our cities and not theirs.I wonder if these politicians and news media carefully weighed the choice theyíre making.


There is another choice that we, as a county, must make.That choice is winning or losing.I expect a few of you are sports fans and athletes.Iíve been a Chicago Cubs fan since I saw my first game at Wrigley Field in 1966.The Cubs managed to not make it back to the World Series again.After having what is normally an insurmountable lead of 3 games to 2 and headed back home for the final games they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.I observed something quite interesting in this series and the lesson applies to this discussion.What I observed is that the Marlinís manager was managing to win while the Cubs manager was trying not to lose.There is a big difference between trying to win and trying not to lose.Thatís what concerns me about our war and the choices we have to make as a nation.Itís a single choice between winning and trying not to lose.Itís a choice that determines our future.Some vociferous politicians and our major news media just donít seem to get it.If they did, theyíd understand that a nation not speaking with one voice, which is the choice they are making, is prolonging our fight and putting our soldiers at greater risk. I can only hope that our leaders, in response to the daily negativity of the news media and some politicians, do not switch from managing to win to trying no to lose.