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October 24, 2009

Why I Gave Up Journalism to Join the Marines

In 2005 a young journalist wrote a moving essay for the Wall Street Journal:

It's a cliché that you appreciate your own country more when you live abroad, but it happens to be true.

...living in China ... shows you what a nondemocratic country can do to its citizens. I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square, and I've been videotaped by government agents while I was talking to a source. I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.

When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule. They feel alien to us, but from the viewpoint of the world's population, we are the aliens, not them. That makes you think about protecting your country no matter who you are or what you're doing. What impresses you most, when you don't have them day to day, are the institutions that distinguish the U.S.: the separation of powers, a free press, the right to vote, and a culture that values civic duty and service, to name but a few.

I'm not an uncritical, rah-rah American. Living abroad has sharpened my view of what's wrong with my country, too. It's obvious that we need to reinvent ourselves in various ways, but we should also be allowed to do it from within, not according to someone else's dictates.

Joining the Marines wasn't easy for this young man. He was 31 years old and out of shape. But Matt had what it takes to be a Marine - the determination to transform his own life and the willpower not to take 'no' for an answer:

The officer-selection officer wasn't impressed with my age, my Chinese language abilities or the fact that I worked for one of the great newspapers of the world. His only question was, "How's your endurance?"

Well, I can sit at my desk for 12 hours straight. Fourteen if I have a bag of Reese's.

If you're wondering whether a 31 year old desk potato can hack the rigors of OCS and Marine Basic School, wonder no more. In April of this year, Lt. Matt Pottinger was photographed by ABC News in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

So many of us take our way of life and the freedom and security we enjoy for granted. We can do this because for over two hundred years men like Matt Pottinger understood that the rule of law cannot exist without the means and the will to enforce that law.

Lt. Matt Pottinger has transformed himself. Today he is working to transform Afghanistan. Somehow, I think he'll do just fine.

Posted by Cassandra at October 24, 2009 03:29 PM

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I want to join the marines,
but I also want to become a journalist..
I have my whole highschool era planned out and afterwards I plan on going to Baylor to get a degree in journalism.

But there's the twist, I've
wanted to join the marines since I was in junior high (I'm in highschool not as a freshaman)

But my parents say that the marines is no place for a girl....what should I do?

Posted by: Destiny at February 4, 2010 11:05 AM