Friday, March 16, 2007

No Soldier’s life is wasted.

It is painful for a soldier or the families of any person in military service to hear that a life lost in service to our country was wasted. People enter military service for many reasons including patriotism, economics and adventure but, once that uniform is put on, you serve for personal honor, your comrades and the long line of those who have served with honor in the past.

Senator Barack Obama said in a speech in Iowa last month, "We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."

He later apologized. Perhaps he can be excused for his lapse. He has never served in the military and cannot know what goes through the minds of our young service members. He does not know the fear, loneliness and deprivation that are part of the sacrifice we are often called upon to endure. He does not understand the level of fortitude shown by a soldier who enters a room first or goes to investigate a suspicious bag lying by the road.

Senator John McCain, a veteran of Viet Nam who was a POW for over five years, has a long family history of military service, and has two sons who are currently serving, said pretty much the same thing on David Letterman.

"We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives,” said McCain.

What was he thinking? Were his years in a POW camp wasted? Did he forget the way the military was scorned back then? Has he forgotten how the courage he displayed is an inspiration to others who face the possibility of capture?

In all branches of the military and in our veteran’s groups we honor our dead long after their families are gone and their names have been forgotten. I have been in military service since 1976. I have seen the tide of public opinion rise and fall. I do what I do because it is a part of me. I believe it is the same for most in the military. People speak of fighting for freedom, for causes, for whatever… In the end we fight for each other. In the end each other is all we have.

Early in my career my squadron lost three Marines in three separate training accidents. These were not war losses. These deaths were not wasted and were no less honorable than a combat casualty. Everyone in uniform understands that we are in a dangerous profession that may have cost us our life.

I am in the National Guard now and have already deployed once. I am ready to go again if called upon. I don’t make these decisions. I swore an oath and I live by it. I will go where I am sent and fight at home if it comes to that. I don’t crave parades or special honors but they are touching when I experience them. It’s what I do and will probably do for a few more years.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
From “Tommy” - Rudyard Kipling

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to love, And a time to hate;

A time of war, And a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1,8 (New King James Version)

No comments: