Summary of eRumor:
Author John Schaeffer penned an essay titled “John is My Heart” for the Washington Post that describes how his son enlisting in the Marines connected Schaeffer to his country in a way that he was too “selfish and insular” to experience before.
Frank Schaeffer’s “John is My Heart” essay was published in the Washington Post op-ed section in the lead-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002.
Frank Schaeffer’s essay was published under the headline, “My Heart is on the Line,” on November 26, 2002. As the essay was re-posted and re-circulated in the years that followed, the headline changed to “John is My Heart” at some point.
PBS Newshour also published the essay in 2002, and the show featured a video segment of Frank Schaeffer reading the essay on how his son enlisting in the Marines had changed him:
In the essay, Frank Schaeffer explains that as a “Volvo-driving, higher education-worshipping north shore of Boston” resident, he didn’t understand what drew his son, John, to the Marines in 1999. Schaeffer also writes that before his son enlisted, he didn’t think about who was protecting him or his country:
Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me. Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.
In “John is My Heart,” Frank Schaeffer goes on to explain that he struggled to tell the parents of other students graduating from the same private school as John that his son had decided to forgo college and enlist in the Marines:
Why were I and the other parents at my son’s private school so surprised by his choice? I feel shame because it took John’s joining the Marine Corps to make me take notice of who is defending me. I feel hope because my son is part of a future “greatest generation.” I also feel pride. As the clouds of war gather, at least I can look the men and women who defend us in the eye. My son is one of them. He is the best I have to offer. He is my heart.
Frank Schaeffer also wrote that before John enlisted in the Marines, he felt connected to his country in a way that he had not before:
My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before. I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends. She has two sons in the corps. When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it. His younger brother is in the Navy. At one time, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated were proud to serve their country.
Frank Schaeffer’s “My Heart is on the Line” or “John is My Heart” essay was widely shared in forwarded emails, discussion forums and social media posts in the decade and a half following its initial publication in November 2002. We can confirm that Schaeffer wrote the essay, and that it was published in the Washington Post.
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