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Pressed for Time

Sarah's picture

A 19-year-old Texas soldier recently hurried to defend his post -- so much so he didn't take time to get dressed, but ran to his buddies' side in body armor, helmet, sleepwear and flip-flops.

And Robert Gates, DoD chief and former Texas A&M C-in-C, praised the soldier's behavior in an article carried by Reuters.

When you're 19 years old, on the far side of the world from home, and wakened by a firefight, you often act first and think later -- at least, I know I did as a young A1C. Goes to show you that, first and foremost, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guards in harm's way on behalf of this country are ... young. Take a look at the picture of Spc. Boyd next to his platoon mates, and you get an idea how young, really.

Young enough this soldier's mom was excited to see him in the paper:

A wire service photographer snapped a picture of Boyd rushing into action in his undershorts and the snapshot wound up on the front pages of the Star-Telegram and The New York Times.

The soldier's mother, Sheree Boyd, said her son called Monday night to tell her his picture might be in the Times.

"He said, 'I hear the Times is what they put on the president's desk,'" she said. "Then he told us, 'I may not have a job anymore after the president has seen me out of uniform.'"

Mrs. Boyd said she was not surprised to see her "Zacho" in pink underpants.

"It was typical," she said. "He has always been an interesting little character."

When you're 19 years old, on the far side of the world from home, and things go waytoowrong ... you grab the rifle, first. That's a reflex, in the military. Other stuff you can figure out later.

Now, that said, I'm all for bravery. Audie Murphy set the standard for Texas soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coast guards during World War II. Then as now, it wasn't rich men, or scions of privilege, who drew the front-line billets.

I wish this young man a long and well-favored future, after his tour of duty.

"I can only wonder about the impact on the Taliban. Just imagine seeing that: a guy in pink boxers and flip-flops has you in his cross-hairs. What an incredible innovation in psychological warfare," he said.

Army Specialist Zachary Boyd, 19, of Fort Worth, Texas, rushed from his sleeping quarters on May 11 to join fellow platoon members at a base in Afghanistan's Kunar Province after the unit came under fire from Taliban positions.

A news photographer was on hand to record the image of Boyd standing at a makeshift rampart in helmet, body armor, red T-shirt and boxers emblazoned with the message: "I love NY."

When the image wound up on the front page of the New York Times, Boyd told his parents he might lose his job if President Barack Obama saw him out of uniform.

"I can assure you that Specialist Boyd's job is very safe indeed," Gates said in the speech.

And I can't help wondering whether the guys shooting at his platoon ever saw the shorts, or the flip-flops. 'Cause, you know, this isn't an everyday sort of appearance that a soldier's chain of command would find OK.

I'm not going to make excuses for the likes of former corporal Charles Graner, rightly serving a ten-year sentence for prisoner abuse. But we mustn't forget that all GIs are neither Graner nor Murphy, and many are very much like Boyd: kids, halfway around the world from home, in harm's way 24/7/365.

Which makes me even angrier at those who knowingly sent, six years and two months ago, the first batch of American kids into war in Iraq, and those who, today, aren't bringing the American kids home from Iraq or Afghanistan.

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