Friday, December 5, 2008

Military Service

Here’s something you hear about all the time. Back in the U.S., many, many people join the ranks and serve the country, sacrificing a lot but gaining a lot as well. What would it be like, however, if everyone had to serve?

Well, in Azerbaijan, that’s not the case either, but just about every male serves in the military for a couple years. I learned a little about military service one day as I was walking down the road with my friends in Ceyranbatan.

My host family just so happened to be riding in a relative’s car, and they stopped and yelled for me to join them. No wasn’t an option. So we jetted out of town towards Baku, and I wasn’t sure where the heck we were going. Let me also add that at this time, I could speak barely any Azerbaijani, but I did have my dictionary. My host dad took it and flipped through the pages. He eventually said, “military service.” In Azerbaijani, the word is “əsgərlik”. That didn’t help me too much, though. You begin to think weird things when you’re riding in a car, you don’t know where you’re going, and somebody tells you “military service”. Oh well, what the heck was I going to do? Jump out?

So we arrived at our destination. As I could’ve expected, it was a military post. We got out of the car and greeted Elhan, my oldest host brother, whom I’d never met. Ah, I got it now. We were just visiting Elhan. We walked into the mess hall and sat down. Unfortunately, the electricity was out, so we sat in the dark and chatted with him. I, however, did more listening than chatting.

Whatever the case, it was interesting to observe. Elhan’s about twenty years old, three years younger than I am. No doubt military service ain’t a picnic, and here was this man, sitting in the dark, talking with the folks from home. It can’t be easy, but he seemed to have a good attitude.

I’ve wondered why countries have required military service. I imagine it’s to ensure the country’s protection, but I can see there being an advantage for those doing the service. It seems to me that if there was one way to jump-start a person into manhood, it would be this. If I had done military service before college and all that, there’s a chance I would’ve been a stronger, more mature man. I mean, it’s not a guarantee, but there’s a chance. It would’ve also been good to know that I was needed in my country, regardless of what came out of my service, although that doesn’t make me or anyone else exempt from making his/herself counted.

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