Monday, May 26, 2008

His country wanted him to fight, For the things they thought were right

Most people join the military for a variety of reasons, some noble, others less so. Some are purely patriotic, some see the military as a way to improve their life, either by educational benefits, or just a steady job. And some really have an affinity for the military lifestyle.

They enter into a contract with society. They promise to protect and defend the U.S., and we, the citizens of the U.S., promise to support them in every way imaginable. Soldiers know the job has risks, and they agree to take on those risks so civilians don't have to. But soldiers depend on civilian leaders to not put them at risk for bad reasons, because soldiers can't say no.

I'll be the first to admit I never would have joined the armed services. That may be a fault in my personality, and it may also be because in my lifetime, and especially since the Cold War ended, there has beel no real manifest threat to America. Not the dominoes predicted to fall after Viet Nam, and certainly not the Islamic terrorists in the Middle East. Yes, 9/11 was terrible, but in 2006 alone, over 17,000 people died in alcohol-related car accidents. Perspective, folks.

But the folks who join the military, who take up weapons and charge off into battle following orders, deserve our complete respect and support. Not with Yellow Ribbon magnets, not "I Support The Troops" bumper stickers, but health care, education, decent pay, and wisdom in choosing their battles.

And they should get our solemn reverence when they don't come home, and their families should be supported and consoled. Whatever the war, whatever the political climate, the soldiers are doing their job, and their families often pay a great price for sending their loved ones off to protect America.

Please remember that under all the political rhetoric, the lofty ideals, the rationales for war, the ultimate price isn't paid by politicians, leaders, or the country at large. It's paid by teachers, students, mechanics, medics, wives, husbands, brothers, children, and all the military families who lend their kin to the country. They gave us their literal best.

We owe them our best in return.

"And They Obey" ~ Carl Sandburg

Smash down the cities.
Knock the walls to pieces.
Break the factories and cathedrals, warehouses
and homes
Into loose piles of stone and lumber and black
burnt wood:
You are the soldiers and we command you.

Build up the cities.
Set up the walls again.
Put together once more the factories and cathedrals,
warehouses and homes
Into buildings for life and labor:
You are workmen and citizens all: We
command you.