I hate war. It's a terrible evil. It disturbs me to see my sons play with the toy guns people give them as gifts. I sneak them into the bin and throw out the foam bullets. I was so relieved when they stopped playing those horrible 'first-person shooter' games on PlayStation, like 'Call of Duty'. For whatever reason they shifted to 'Minecraft' and 'Fifa', thank God.
Honestly, if there were more Quaker meeting houses, you'd find me there on a regular basis. Pacifism is a holy state.
Yet, when my teenage son declared an interest in joining the Army, I was delighted. I instantly entertained the fantasy of seeing him in uniform and me, the immensely proud mother.
My would-be-soldier is only young, and for all kinds of reasons it might never happen, but my pleasure at the prospect put me to thinking: if I hate war so much, why would I want him to be a soldier?
It's because of the qualities we associate with the Defence Forces - discipline, loyalty, bravery and leadership. Irrespective of what job any of my children end up doing, I want them to have all these.
Just look at the crisis in which we now find ourselves and the sudden realisation that retail workers, bus drivers and road hauliers are key workers. It requires genuine bravery to expose oneself to the coronavirus to keep essential services going.
Some people are born leaders, but they can be made too. What better place to learn than in the Army?
There are many who argue Ireland doesn't need an army or navy or air corps - that specific functions like sea rescue could be carried out by a civil force. But that's a very narrow perspective, particularly in an Irish context.
When I think of an Irish soldier, I don't see them in the tiny world of a nation-state border defence role; but abroad in the world, peacekeeping and protecting civilian populations against malevolent and murderous forces.
The goodness and greatness of the Irish Army is not that it seeks to exercise the power of the State for the benefit of the State, but for the good of all people, across the world.
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, laid out these values in a thoughtful speech at Fordham University in New York just a few weeks ago.
Arguing for the multilateral philosophy behind our peacekeeping activity, he quoted John Donne's famous poem that "no man is an island". It includes the line that articulates my deep sadness of war: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."
As humans and nation states, we're all connected to each other. That's why our Navy was pulling migrants from the Mediterranean Sea. If we abandon our moral obligation to the rest of the world, we lose something of ourselves.
Mellett made an elegant case for the modern soldier who is no longer a warrior but a humanitarian and scholar; who understands the perspective of others as a diplomat. The vice-admiral has lived this out himself. He served in Afghanistan - one of the riskiest environments in the world - with Nato in 2004. He used his diplomatic skills to bring together the numerous official bodies entrusted with running democratic elections that resulted in the election of the former president, Hamid Karzai. If anything encapsulates the transition from the combatant to the diplomat, it's this.
He also said interesting things about leadership. In another part of my life, I've an interest in business culture and the importance of creating a culture of challenge and learning in organisations. Mellett put it nicely when he said a good leader makes other leaders.
He observed that egotism, either from the personal or national perspective, is a threat to leadership. To cut oneself off from others is to cut off resources and ideas.
Egotists can't learn or innovate if they can't be humble enough to learn from others. As an example, he said that the determination to innovate enabled the Defence Forces' medical teams responding to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone to be equipped with contactless thermometers before such technology was available on the market.
I had no idea we were in Sierra Leone at all. Perhaps that in itself speaks volumes.
Many of us are aware, in the abstract, that the Defence Forces have been badly neglected. The low wages simply wouldn't be accepted in any other part of the public service. Possibly it is precisely because they are so loyal they don't threaten or lobby as aggressively as others do for improvements.
The booming economy has seen people leave in droves for private sector jobs. It's very sad and reduces our capability to do good in the world. The coronavirus crisis has shown that the public service is capable of doing extraordinary things when faced with an existential threat. I hope when it's all over that we'll reward those whom we've discovered to be so crucial to survival.
These are genuinely testing times, and I found inspiration in the chief's statement of the values of the Defence Forces: "The moral courage to do the right thing, the physical courage to persevere despite danger and adversity, integrity that encompasses honesty, sincerity and reliability, loyalty to comrades and the State, and selflessness which puts duty before ourselves." We all need the spirit of the Defence Forces now.