America has been involved in a couple of wars since I was twelve-years-old. I can say it very factually without emotion. I’m not torn up about it; I’m used to it. We can talk about the war, rattle off some numbers, maybe even know who the Kurds are, but it is not something real to us anymore.
You would think that many of us would have grown up familiar with the war effort. But that’s not true. Because isn’t even a war effort in which to be familiar.
We seem to forget we’re at war at all until it’s used in a political debate. “Bring the troops home.” “Support the troops.” Maybe the political talk confused you. It’s a “military operation” and “democracy building.”
No. It’s war.
The war in Iraq was met with some vocal opposition, but most Americans agreed eight years ago that we needed to invade Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
Afghanistan has been, and will continue to be, a long war, but it isn’t another Vietnam. People are not angrily opposed to this war. They just don’t care about it at all.
I’m an old movie buff, and the war movies made between 1938 and 1945 had one of two themes: men in battle or home sacrifice for the war effort.
People back home went without steel, without aluminum, without sugar, without nylon, without rubber. That made them a part of the war. They had an immediate, invested interest that we win, along with the future interest of keeping the war “over there” before it got “over here.”
So what have you given up for the war effort? Unless there is a family member in the military, I would guess not much. There are no drafts, no rations. There are no reminders at all except for yellow ribbons on your car bumper.
If you really support the troops, send them boxes and help military families transition to moves and deployments.
Thanking a soldier is always nice, but it’s not doing anything. It’s certainly better than the scorn some Vietnam vets received returning home, but it’s no ticker-tape parade either.
Saying “thank you” to a soldier might give you a sense of doing something, but the most you’ve done is taken ten seconds of your time and two words.
In turn, that soldier has given up months away from family and friends to fight in a place you probably can’t even find on a map. And he or she did not go over there for personal benefit. The war is not U.S. military vs. Taliban. It’s all of us against anyone who wants to defeat us.
We’re a pretty lucky country, isolated here in the Northern and Western hemispheres. We can walk around without fearing bombs being dropped from the sky or that car next to us exploding.
We open the paper and read about the people that died “over there.” You can bet if it were “over here” we’d be much more active, not relying solely on our military personal.
Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding officer in Afghanistan, has said, “The military solution cannot solve our problems. It must be a civil-military solution.”
If we want to succeed in the wars we fight, we must fight them. The military is in place to keep us safe. It is responsible for our defense, and cannot be solely responsible for all of our international endeavors.
Civilians are capable of helping Iraq and Afghanistan develop into self-governing nations. Civilians are capable of supporting the military with more than two words. Civilians are capable of giving something up for the war effort, making it a little better to fight and a little better to finance.
The U.S. has invested eight years, 1.4 million troops, and $915 billion in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There have been more than 5,100 U.S military causalities (and counting). It’s a small percentage of those serving, but it’s a lot of sons, daughters, mothers, father, husbands, wives, siblings and friends.
And many more service men and women have been physically injured or psychological scarred.
An Army survey revealed that soldiers are 50 percent more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder if they serve more than one tour. More than 420,000 troops have served more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan.
There are 20-year-old veterns coming home with PTSD to peers who are more concerned with The Hills than the election scandal of Afghanistan or its consequences on our service members stationed there.
“The war,” which is really two wars, is common in our vocabulary of current events, but it is not forefront on our mind. We’ve gone numb after eight years. We’ve forgotten WE, not just our defense department, is at war.
Maybe we’ve forgotten over eight years how big a deal war is.
War is big. War is hell.
We cannot continue to avoid the mounting costs (financial, physical, and emotional) that war inflicts on the U.S., our allied countries, or Iraq and Afghanistan.
If we continue to forget about the war here, we’ll lose it “over there.”
Civilian response and effort will determine the place the current wars will have in the history books.
This time in our nation’s history can be remembered with nostalgia of home front efforts while soldiers combat tyranny like World War II. It can be remembered with shame of failure, a war lost on the TV screens, like Vietnam.
Or it can chart its own course, a conscientious approach, both military and civilian, in facing an ever increasingly unstable world.
What’s important is that 5,100 of our brothers and sisters did not die in vain.
We have to remember we are at war. And it’s high time we start acting like it.