On a recent flight from Washington, DC, I sat beside a guy in a buzz cut, wearing a Washington Redskins jersey. We chatted about the range of team logos you see in DC. (In 24 hours, I saw two Stanford Cardinals, a couple in an Oakland A’s cap and a Bowie State tee, two unrelated Michigan fans, a UCLA Bruins tee, and a bunch of orange Clemsons, for a game in town. Home pride at the national capital?)
We were flying from DC to Charlotte. For me, it was a layover before my flight to California. “I’ve been to California once,” my seat mate said. “But it was for training, so I don’t have great memories.”
“What sport?” I asked. Football, I figured, or possibly rugby.
My seat mate turned out to be a Marine, serving the last two years of his five-year contract. In our ensuing polite chitchat, I criticized the way servicemen can be recalled. “You commit to four years, and then you’re forced to give another four,” I said. “That’s not fair.” He shrugged and, in a matter-of-fact tone, said that the policy of recalling servicemen or activating reservists is necessary without a draft.
He’s been deployed to Iraq and to Afghanistan, which he thought was worse. “Do you think we should stay in Afghanistan?” I asked him. “And send more troops?” With good humor, he said that he’d rather not answer. If he’s called, he’ll go.
He grew up in Arlington, VA, and is currently stationed in North Carolina. He went to DC to attend his cousin’s wedding. “Do you need approval to leave?” I asked. “You can leave on weekends,” he said. “Just be back for work on Monday.”
During the flight, I opened the Iyengar Preliminary Course book, preparing to teach a beginning class. “What’s that?” he asked.
“Yoga,” I said.
“I tried it a few times,” he said, a bit sheepishly. “It was that hot yoga. It gave me a whole new respect for yoga.”
I had to smile. Is there any American who has not heard of yoga or tried a class or two? Yoga has truly reached every corner, every demographic.
This 20-something from Arlington has a smidgen of firsthand experience in my world of yoga. I have not an inkling about the military. “It might not seem like it, ” I said, “but we civilians greatly appreciate what you’re doing for our country.”
“Of course,” I added, “we have no clue, about what it’s really like out there.”
He thanked me for my meager acknowledgment, adding that he can’t wait till his remaining time is up. He wants to return to the DC area, return to school.
I hope he does get out, safe and sound. Meeting that young Marine made me think: no matter how hard my life can feel, it’s cake.