At the Eagle Barber Shop in Northwest Washington, there is talk of war, as you might expect in a place run by a World War II veteran who comes in on Thursdays to help cut the hair of ROTC cadets from nearby Howard University.

"I fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned the nickname 'Eager Beaver,' " proprietor Ernest Myers recalled proudly. "That's because I shot first and asked questions later."

And if you dare suggest that the United States was wrong in waging war in the Persian Gulf, he just might cut a crease across your head.

"This is America," Myers declared, aiming his scissors like a bayonet. "Love it or leave it."

Certainly a pollster could walk away from the Eagle with Myers securely placed in the pro-war column, as most Americans are. But even here among the gung-ho, reservations about America's behavior lurk just beneath the surface.

For a good patriot such as Myers, who is 67, confusion and conflict eats away at his insides even as he projects a solid front of support.

For instance, Myers is most proud of the fact that his son, Kevin Battle, 39, and grandsons Benjamin Banks, 19, and Marshall Brown, 18, are serving in the Air Force, Navy and Marines, respectively.

But there is no denying that the only reason each of them signed up was that their parents could not afford to send them to college, and because the Washington area could not provide them with adequate employment opportunities.

"My son signed up so he could get that $25,000 in college money that the Army offers," Myers said. "He could either take his chances in the military, or risk getting shot by these dummies here at home."

Now that three men in his family are in a war, Myers said he suffers from an "awful feeling" that comes from knowing that their enlistment was an "economical thing."

So he seeks justification in his religion.

"My sons are Christians, and they know that death has no dominion over them," Myers said. "Christians don't die. They only sleep until Jesus comes."

Exactly why his boys are facing the prospect of death in a desert 6,000 miles from home is not clear to him. But his gut gets tied in knots at the thought.

"It seems like every time the economy gets wacky, we go to war," Myers said, reluctantly.

But such a notion did not square with his previously expressed sentiments of heartfelt love for America, so Myers quickly rid himself of the thought.

"This war is fulfillment of the Bible," he said with renewed confidence. "For Babylon, it is the end of time, as written in the book of Daniel. You have nothing to worry about if you are prepared to meet your maker."

Myers came to Washington in 1939 after graduating from high school in Winston-Salem, N.C. He lived on Georgia Avenue near Irving Street NW, not far from where the Eagle Barber Shop is located today. He was drafted into the Army at the age of 18 and served 2 1/2 years with the 3rd Army Division.

Myers was assigned to a trucking outfit. At some point, he recalled, a group of German soldiers, dressed as Americans, infiltrated his compound.

"All hell broke loose," Myers recalled. "It was kill or be killed. But that's what war is all about. Everybody does not die. I was blessed. I believed our fighting men in the gulf will be, too. This will not be another Vietnam."

Or so he heard.

Myers was wounded in Germany, and the Army awarded him various medals. But when he returned to Washington, he rode on the back of the bus to his home.

It was another example of what he called the "double standard" that is applied to black Americans.

But he says that no longer troubles him.

"This is the only country in the world where you can be born poor and black and still have a chance of dying rich," he said. He used the benefits from the GI Bill to get his master barber's license and began working at the Eagle Barber Shop in 1949.

In 1962, he bought the place.

In explaining why he thinks America is worth dying for in any war, Myers recalled visiting countries where he had seen battle during World War II.

"I was in East Germany in 1980, and I don't want to live no place where you can't get ice water," he said. "I ordered tea, but couldn't get any sugar. I'll stay in America and fight these white folk here all day long before I live like people do over there."

That was the heart of Myers's support. America was simply better than the rest -- if not the best that America could be.