The Publicist:

We would all do well to follow the example set by our brave troops

We would all do well to follow the example set by our brave troops

The invitation, from an ideologically opposed friend, was layered with an underlining challenge.

"If you care to leave your candy-ass Hollywood for a day and see how real men and women behave in the real world, come to a Marine recruit graduation ceremony. No movie fakery, pal. This is the real deal."

"As real as a Bush photo-op on an aircraft carrier?" I responded.

"I'm not talking about politicians," he said. "I'm talking about soldiers. Come see for yourself if it's more about propaganda than duty."

You're on. I was curious, anyway, to find out what kind of PR effort is required for the military to meet its recruiting numbers during wartime. Besides, I hadn't been to San Diego in many years, and thought I might take in a trip to the zoo. See if the monkeys remembered me. (There was an "incident" last time I visited.)

Accustomed to seeing every person under 25 wearing their pants practically around their knees, I was impressed by the sharp attire of the young guards I saw upon arrival at the Marine base. Good manners, too. Although subjected to a car search and a few questions, I was always addressed as "sir" and treated firmly, but with respect. (Airport inspectors could learn a thing or two from these guys.) I sat in the grandstands with the families and friends - some proud, some anxious - of recruits who'd just been through three months of hellish training. Their reward? Ten days off, and then more of the same, culminating, most likely, in hazardous duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I askeThe invitation, from an ideologically opposed friend, was layered with an underlining challenge.d a woman next to me, "How did they convince your son to join in a time of war? Was it a hard sell?"

"No," she said. "Tim had been offered a college athletic scholarship, but wants to serve in Iraq. And he doesn't even agree with the war. He just doesn't think it's right that others risk their lives while he stays safe."

I got a lump in my throat. "What a man you've raised." "I know," she said quietly.

The procession of boot-camp grads filed past and the lump got bigger. So young, so straight, so precise. How could they look so polished in only three months?

There may be considerable phoniness and PR war spin going on in DC, but there was nothing false about these committed young men and women in uniform. Nor was there anything fake about the tears of the spectators. I know, because some of them were mine.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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