The Last Full Measure of Devotion
It’s not about patriotism, flag waving, or bragging that our causes were just. It’s not about a long holiday from work to grill and drink beer and celebrate our freedom to feast. In the press of more “modern” times, as we slowly shift from coming to the aid of conquered peoples to opposing hostile ideologies, protecting our access to foreign natural resources, aiding corporate interests, dealing with the blowback of covert missions, and projecting power, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify those sparse periods of peace that we incessantly claim to be fighting for. There can be no doubt that evil people engineer suffering and misery on a massive scale, to their own ends. There can be no doubt that those who are capable have the moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves, in order to lessen injustice and suffering.
But let us not forget that more is at risk in our political and national decisions than troop casualties. “It’s a hell of a thing to take away all that a man has, or ever will have,” at least on this side of the plane of existence. And it’s a hell of a thing to do so merely from the desire to teach others a lesson, to exact revenge, to protect profits, or from the desire to sound like a more patriotic American than the next guy, when it isn’t our own necks that pass over the chopping block. It is easy to send others to fight when we ourselves appear to be entirely out of harm’s way. Yet, our loss is more than a soldier, a fact which is painfully obvious even to children, but which we adults learn to put out of our minds, so that the next call to sacrifice can come a little easier. It should not become easy, and the rallying cry should seldom be heard in what used to be called a peace-loving nation.
The next time you hear one of our elected representatives evoke an indignant patriotic fervor, demanding support for yet another military incursion, police action, or vague, unspecified activity, ask yourself whether it is his own son he will so eagerly send to armed combat, or yours. Is it to benefit and protect those in desperate straits, or more to oppose and punish those whom we have been encouraged to hate? The “warrior mentality” may be needed by those in the field to survive, but turned loose outside of it, it brings only “wars and rumors of wars”. Armed combat becomes the new norm. Warfare is the only political activity that has been largely (but not completely) free of that worn mantra, “It’s for our children.” As the picture at the top of this post reveals, there’s a sound reason for that. This is the official day to honor those who gave more than their only lives in service to our nation and our people. Let us do so, remember them, and carefully hesitate to throw more loss their way without thoughtful deliberation, for the casualty list will always be longer than the final tally suggests.
Beautifully stated; thank you.
Thanks, Mary Francis.
Eisenhower warned us in 1960 but we lost anyway.
Every time you hear of another American life lost or changed forever in Afghanistan you need to ask “why?”
I agree, Rob. Afghanistan is one very complex story, and it’s hard to believe now that they had peace from 1933-1973. On the whole, Afghanistan and to some degree Iraq are the merely the playing field, and the goal on our and NATO’s part was to fix the instability created by each of its surrounding neighbors with their own agendas. But we aren’t about to invade Pakistan, the very aggressive supporter of both the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which the Afghanistan’s mujahideen would have done, if given the chance. The whole thing is a mess of competing interests, and the only thing I’m lost on is why Afghanistan is thought of as a “geo-strategic” location. It is critically valuable to us because…why? Regionally, yes, we’d grind to a halt and blame whatever President for the crippling loss of oil, but I’m ignorant of Afghanistan’s strategic value. Not saying there isn’t one – I’m just not getting it.
The takeaway is that terrorism doesn’t just happen because of some devoted fanatics. It requires major funding, training, and assistance to those fanatics, and that doesn’t happen without political if not national effort. In essence, terrorists are a more devoted class of mercenaries that vary between employees and freelancers up for hire. If the help wasn’t there, they’d be just hate-filled people looking in vain for a way to force others to their control. Can’t do it without money from others that want it to happen, and we’re not above it. I’ve lunched at a past employer with regular born-and-bred Americans who boasted of financially supporting the IRA during its heyday of assassinations and civilian murders. After all, you can’t buy bombs and ammo without money. As they say, “freedom isn’t free” and we are a nation that once fought for its own freedom, but I’d add that the love of hate, violence and power have their costs as well.
Doug your bl9g posts r getting more frequent and I like that!!! PLEASE keep them coming they r a delight full of good rv facts, travel advice, living advice and truely entertaining rollicking humour! Keep on rolling big boy! Bill n Sadie Mae the Attack Pug!
Thanks Bill, but you’re about to head into disappointment since, if I can pull this 3.5-ton tin slug out of the mud and down the trail, I’ll begin the week-long trek back to Illinois tomorrow. That means more sporadic posts since drive times will be longer than in the past, but I’ll be glad to resume telling everyone what to think and how to live once I get settled in again. It may not have worked for me, but still, it’s what I do.
Thanks Doug you are a breath of fresh air!
So many of our soldiers kept their lives but lost their spirits as well. Agent orange blowback and PTSD are as real as war. Thanks for reminding us.
Good point, Linda. It had been acknowledged decades ago that armies are best used against opposing armies, as demonstrated in our first go in Iraq. Armies are relatively ill-equipped to oppose guerrilla tactics, especially when mixed in with civilians. It’s a losing proposition in general, and I don’t doubt that the unending risk, stress and shocking incidents are the cause of the unusually high rates of PTSD compared to the past. That, and the military’s decision to extend combat exposure because we were militarily overextended. Solve one problem and create another. It was no mystery to them what would happen, but I’m sure they felt that the short-term goals were worth the deferred “casualties” that would occur once the troops left the theater and returned home. Not their problem. That’s what the VA is for, right?