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My son is off to serve but why are we doing nothing?
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I just passed by Smyrna Park.

Then the persistent - and most unwelcome over the past few weeks - lump in my throat returned.

Seeing Smyrna Park's children's play area brought back a 20-year-old memory like it was just yesterday. Those were the days when my wife would bring the kids down there and have lunch with Daddy. Those hot summer days when they'd halfway down their lunch and then scamper off to play, always inviting me to push them, twirl them, chase them.

I have no more little ones. My wife and I said goodbye to our youngest son, Jeremy Matthew Benziger, this week. He enlisted in the Air Force through James Burbank of Ceres and we left Jeremy at the recruiting station in Turlock on Monday. My wife and I asked a lot of questions about what he should expect in basic and let's just say that I'm reviving my prayer life. Then we watched him climb into a van with other recruits which zipped down Countryside Drive toward 99 on the way to Sacramento. Then we walked out to our vehicles, embraced each other and spent some time, well, sobbing.

We weren't only losing our son as we know him to the Air Force, we sensed our "little boy" was officially a man. We were also staring, for the first time in our lives, an empty nest. Four empty bedrooms now in our house. It seems we must learn how to adapt to this new and seemingly vacant phase of our lives. The backyard pool won't be used by our kids and their frolicking friends. A leaf has been taken from our dining table to make it smaller. And the second floor over our bedroom won't be creaking under the weight of Jeremy's steps. Nor will I hear the sounds of Adelle, the Cranberries or Evanescence being played on his computer.

I suddenly feel robbed. When is this lump in my throat going to stop?

Jeremy was not supposed to leave until September but a spot opened up and he was off July 19. First day of basic at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio is today. We had some time to cram in trips before he left, all the while knowing these precious days contained in them something special.

In a few days, our front office receptionist / bookkeeper Lisa Gonzalez will watch her son leave for the Marines. Lisa will be going through the same tender feelings as her son, Nick Sandoval, departs on Sunday, about seven months before he was supposed to. Only Lisa didn't have the time to prepare for Nick's departure.

My thoughts turn to those parents who lost it all when their sons and daughters died on foreign battle fields. The Raymond Hills and Juana Navarros in the present war. The Brian Kent McGars in Vietnam. The Paul Hickeys and Walter Perras in World War II. Not an exhaustive list by any means for Ceres itself.

For the first time ever, I know what it feels like to have a son join the military during unsettling times. And I could never be prouder of him. As he endures all kinds of screaming, belittling, frustration and grueling physical training in basic, you can bet I will be praying for him. They will be giving it their all.

Then my thoughts quickly turn to us. What are we, as a people, doing to support the United States and its security? Pardon me if I arrive at the conclusion that the answer is: Not much at all. And it makes me sick.

It should shame us as Americans that we are disengaged, apathetic, lazy. Collectively we care little about the news or what our officials are doing. We abdicate all power to them and let them run roughshod over our rights and spend us into oblivion. This pathetic electorate that we have - and if you don't vote, wham, I just let you have it aside the head - is a shameless indictment on American culture. How did we get to such a point that it's okay for men and women to die to protect our freedom yet we are too bothered to even vote? Or if we do, we vote for whoever looks good or talks the talk and promises change but delivers enslavement and burdens that nobody anticipated? Did we forget that JFK asked us all, very appropriately, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

And as far as I am concerned, if you chose to fly any other nation's flag but our own Stars & Stripes, we really don't need you.

As my junior high P.E. teacher used to say when he was angry at our lack of diligence, "I swear to God, people, I swear to God."

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at