Uncle Sam doesn't want him right now, but Delegate John Astle doesn't care. He wants to go anyway.
Astle, the 47-year-old Annapolis Democrat whose helicopter was shot down twice over Vietnam, isn't cut out for watching wars on television. He'd rather be there.
Late last week, Astle was on the phone with officers in the Marine Corps reserve, asking to be transferred to active duty so he could be sent to the Persian Gulf. The Marines rotate their "ready" reservists between active and inactive duty in order to keep the force well-trained. Astle's active duty term expired in September. So far, he has been unable to get another one.
"I feel like I am on the team, but I'm in the locker room and the coach won't let me suit up," Astle said Friday.
Astle is one of several local public figures who belong to military reserve units. Delegate Victor Sulin, D-Severn, belongs to the Air Force reserve but does not expect to be called up. County Councilman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, was called to duty Thursday by the Marines.
Boschert isn't going to the gulf, though. He's going to Washington, where he'll spend the next 30 days as a media representative at Marine Corps headquarters, handling inquiries fromthe press and the public.
"I'm doing my fair share for the country," said Boschert, a captain in the reserve.
The councilman said he had to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with his 13-year-olddaughter about why he's going off to Washington. "She's taking it harder than anybody," he said.
The councilman said he could be sent to the gulf, "but in the service they put you where they need you. Broadcast is where they need me. I'm ready, willing and able to serve."
Boschert expects to leave for Washington some time after Monday and stay there for much of the next month. His legislative assistant,Mary Baldridge, will run his office while he is gone.
Boschert wore his military uniform to the County Council offices Friday. Though he'll have a desk job in Washington, the councilman made it clear that he saw combat during a year in Vietnam. As a corporal in the Marines' Force Logistics Command, he helped supply weapons and supplies to the front lines.
"See that little ribbon there?" he said, pointing to his chest. "That's a combat ribbon. I spent three months in the bush. That's where I got my baptism into combat."
Astle enlisted inthe Marines after college and spent 13 months as a flight officer and squadron pilot in Vietnam. His helicopter was shot down twice. He was shot twice, but injured only slightly. He was awarded two Purple Hearts.
"Twenty-nine years of my life have been associated with theMarine Corps. I had four years enlisted time and 25 years commissioned service, 10 of that in the regular service on active duty. This isthe Marine Corps. You gotta be gung-ho."
"We're all kind of chomping at the bit (to join the forces in the Middle East)," said Sulin,a former Air Force supply officer and Vietnam veteran.
However, Sulin doesn't plan to volunteer for active duty unless the military situation becomes more critical. If he volunteered, he'd be assigned, like Boschert, to stateside duties, probably filling in for Marines who have been sent overseas. He figures he can do more good in the State House.
"I have a mission here as a legislator in support of the war effort at home as well as at the front," Sulin said. "But if they said they needed me over in Iraq I may be very tempted to get in where the action is."
Astle hoped to know by this week whether his latest request for an active duty position would be granted. "I don't want to be left out," he said.