For as long as humans have had disagreements, they have killed each other over them. And ever since we started having these “deadly disagreements,” we have disagreed on these disagreements, that is to say, there has been debate on whether or not we should go to war. Too often in these debates the soldiers who fight these wars are forgotten, so I will say a few words in honor of the brave men and women who fight to defend this country. And, as much as I like to include humor and attempts at wit in these posts, be forewarned: this one may be a bit of a downer.
It is my belief that the men and women of the United States military are some of the best members of our society. They do a difficult job and dangerous job with humility, and make great sacrifices far beyond those of almost any other job in the world. As such, they deserve our greatest respect and recognition for their service, and few things provoke my ire quite like disrespecting veterans. But before you think I’m embarking on a flag-waving, beer-swilling, country music-listening “This is ‘Merica, ya gosh darn hippie!” rant against the left, know that I’m saving my strongest words of condemnation for the right.
First, for anyone who would diss a veteran, let me point out the obvious: war sucks. It’s hell for the civilians caught in the crossfire, but it’s tough for the soldiers as well. Beyond the risk of injury and death, a soldier’s job consists of killing people. I don’t care what the movies say, or how much fun war games make it seem, killing people in reality is not fun at all. Ending the life of anyone through pain and violence is a horrible thing. Even the most hardened enemy combatant was someone’s adorable little boy or girl with an irreplaceable little face and laugh. Even the noblest war hero is bathed in the blood of his victims and the tears of their widows. Anyone willing to take this burden on their soul in defense of their country is a hero in my book.
Lest we forget, there are also other hardships associated with this life. One that deservedly receives a lot of attention is the effect on families. It’s hard enough to have to move to a completely foreign place and leave behind everything you’re use to, but it’s even worse when doing so means being separated from your family. It’s one thing to leave everything behind and start anew. It’s another thing entirely to leave everything behind, but never be able to let it go. To watch your relationship with the most important people to you die a death of a thousand small cuts. As someone who has spent half a decade of my life in long-distance relationships, I know personally how hard this can be. But even I can’t imagine looking into the eyes of a little boy who calls you “daddy” and having to tell him that you won’t be able to fight an AirSoft war with him again for a long time. Maybe never again, IEDs willing.
Finally, the aftermath. Just because the deployment or war is over doesn’t mean it’s really over. Military life is drastically different than normal civilian life, and the readjustment is difficult. Unemployment among young vets especially is 30% and rising. As if being separated from your family for a long time and living under the constant threat of death wasn’t enough, now piecing your family back together just got harder with the addition of chronic unemployment. It may rain on the righteous as well as on the wicked, but it rains hardest on the veterans. Disrespecting them in any way is the height of ignorant cruelty.
So, now that we’ve paid the high price of veteran sacrifice and misery, what do we get for it? Well, we get to protect wealthy, first-world countries in Europe and East Asia, countries well capable of their own defense. What ever happened to fighting for one’s own country? With U.S. military spending accounting for 41% of that of the whole world, what threats are there left? If military spending should be proportional to threat, then that would mean that we’re expecting to have to defend ourselves against the whole rest of the world at once.
So what are our soldiers dying for? Bombing Afghani wedding parties in order to establish a stable government, while the president of that same government would be willing to fight and kill those same soldiers fighting to keep him in power? To chase down random African insurgent groups that have absolutely nothing to do with American security? Is it really fair to sacrifice our heroes right and left for such frivolous and futile endeavors?
I believe in a strong national defense which occasionally consists of fighting indirect and long-term threats. I believe it is the highest honor for a citizen to risk his or life in defense of the motherland. But I believe that it’s unpardonable to treat human life so cheaply, especially the lives of America’s best. There’s a time for sacrifice and bloodshed, but the very reason for making this sacrifice is to buy peace and normalcy for a while. Let’s not withhold it from our veterans any longer than necessary.