I do not agree with the reasons we went into the war in Iraq. That said, I have always supported our troops. I believe that our armed forces personnel should have the equipment they need, proper medical and psychological care when abroad and returning stateside, appropriate compensation, and support for their families. I believe they deserve thoughtful leaders who protect and value their lives and sacrifices by carefully considering the reasons we go to war and via the resources they make available for our troops to effectively do their jobs. I think our current defense budget is preposterous, and that input from the ground up should be considered to effectively back expenditures that are most necessary to the safety of our troops and success of a mission.
This weekend, many of us will have an additional day away from our workplaces to remember the casualties of war. For most people, this means remembering those KIA or MIA. For those with a more dated but broad definition of “casualty,” it includes noting the sacrifice of those soldiers/sailors/marines who were wounded in the line of duty. These individuals have given the ultimate sacrifice, their health and lives for our country.
However, this Memorial Day, I hope we also remember the less obvious forms of sacrifice made by our living, breathing troops. They give up creature comforts, tasty food, cleanliness, warm and soft beds. They give up time with families in the safety and familiarity of their homes. They give up stability; they move across the country and world, wherever they are stationed. Each time, they are required to reconstruct their lives leaving friends and family behind, and become accustomed to a new place and people. They give up huge chunks of their children’s lives when they are separated for lengthy periods. Youth and idealism are sacrificed as our young recruits get a taste of death, despair, hardship, and fear. Our troops give up mental and spiritual well-being as they experience the true horrors of war, something that American civilians can barely comprehend despite the devastating images and reports that we experience through media outlets.
Only those family and friends intimately connected with men and women who have been to war can witness the internal devastation, can know what parts of the soul were sacrificed for us. My own mother recalls her father, my grandfather, a WWII Navy veteran who served in the Philippines, screaming in his sleep as images of his war experience returned to haunt him. He remained silent about his time in the service throughout his life; he could not come to grips with his experience.
Our troops give more than we can ever honor in one day, more than I can put into words in a flimsy article. No matter on what side of the political spectrum we stand, we cannot fail to see what is given on our behalf. Sometimes it is for reasons we do not agree with; those Americans who are pacifists can never condone the state of war which requires such sacrifice, but that does not invalidate the tremendous sacrifices made by our troops. We are indebted to them.
We owe it to our troops to be aware and listen to their needs and to advocate for them with our political representatives. We owe it to them to stay informed of current issues that affect our military and our country and to give thoughtful, objective analysis to each unique situation. We owe it to them to only ask them to make these sacrifices when there are no other options. We owe it to them, to take a moment aside from our extended weekend, our barbeques, friends and families, to consider those who do not get an “extra day off” because they are serving our country.
We need to translate our remembrance into an everyday consciousness that existed during previous wars, when Americans were not distracted from the serious issues of the day by Lady Gaga, Pippa Middleton, Justin Bieber, or petty political bickering. I can only imagine what would happen if we as a people sacrificed, even to a small degree, our physical and emotional comfort on behalf of our country. What a different world it could be.
For other ways to support our troops visit: http://www.uso.org/