MY BEST friend Otis, a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps, has been sitting in the Saudi Arabian desert for five months.
At first I thought it was pretty neat that a guy I was having a beer with four years ago in college was leading the charge to defend our country.
He was truly a man now and, in the process, it helped me believe that I, too, was no longer just a young college graduate.
But today I feel much different. I get frightening letters from the desert -- Otis is itching to jump into his jet and drop bombs. He writes: "There are guys here who just missed Vietnam and really want a taste of action. It's really exciting." He tells of tensions among the troops on the desert -- who's getting the better food, who's able to do more on less, who complains least.
I miss my buddy now. It's no longer neat. He wasn't around for Thanksgiving, and he won't be around for Christmas.
I've also been thinking about what happens after a war. What if we do go to war and win? Will my friend be part of the military force needed to support the new government in Iraq and Kuwait? How long will my buddy have to stay over there to make sure a new and enlightened leader remains in charge?
No, today I feel more than different -- I feel angry.
Why didn't I ask why my best friend was sent to Saudi Arabia in the first place? I consider myself to be pretty well educated, and, honestly, I have never heard any U.S. president mention Kuwait as one of our vital allies. I seem to remember, too, that we supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war.
I'm not an isolationist, and I know relationships change, but I still haven't heard a clear, concise and convincing statement that would make it easier if I ever have to view my best friend's body and deliver a eulogy at his funeral.
I'm angry, too, that with precious few of our tax dollars to waste, the government seems to be willing to pump money over there while thousands of Americans starve, sleep on grates and kill just to survive in the streets of Baltimore.
But I'm most angry at myself for not being a true citizen and expressing these feelings months ago when my friend went off on his neat trip. I hope to God it's not too late for honest answers and brave decisions.
Mark K. Shriver writes from Baltimore.