That’s right. I said it.
I’m more than angry. I’m pissed. I’m frightened. I’m scared. I’m disgusted.
That we would go to war, or risk going to war, in the service of (at least) one man’s ego, is dumbfounding to me.
Well, maybe not so much when you look at the (i.e., his personal and our collective) history, but hard to fathom and comprehend nonetheless.
There are many things with which I’m angry regarding this entire situation, but I’m mad at us. Mad at us for just going with the status quo. For our ‘groupthink.’ For not utilizing our analytical skills. For not questioning or standing up to when something is not ok. Something is not warranted. We tend to spew hashtags, taglines and one-liners, like “support the troops” with no fore- or afterthought. And yet we continue to send our young men and women into harm’s way for what or whose benefit?
People say “support the troops.” I ask you, what does that even mean? How does that look? Does it look like posting pictures of the American flag on your social media accounts? Does it look like putting a bumper sticker on your car that says “I support the troops”? Or does it mean that you send thoughts and prayers to them? Maybe you go one step further and give money to charitable causes like the Wounded Warrior Project.
Well, I would say that our ideas of what ‘support’ really looks like, or should look like, differ. Because my idea of support is to do something. Not just talk (or post) about it. But to be about it.
I have been about it, as a matter of fact. And no, this is not to toot my own horn. Far from that. In some ways I wish I didn’t even have to be in that position to do so, or that my position at that time wasn’t necessary. But it is, and apparently will be for a long time in this country.
My support came in the form of providing mental health services for service members and their families, their dependents, and even the staff members working with these service members and their families. To help them make sense of the PTSD, the trauma, the anxiety, the depression, the aggression that could be seen after returning from deployments. Some were deployed once. Some, multiple times. Some up to 5 or 6 times. I worked on military bases for a total of 7 years, working with service members who had been deployed to OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom). I saw and heard the stories. But more importantly, I saw and heard the pain, hurt, grief, loss. And that’s not just in the service members. That could be seen with their children, or even spouses.
You see, the effects of war last long after that war is over. Long after the soldier, the sailor, the marine, the airman leave the battlefield. The scars are long lasting, and for some, lifelong. For others, they would rather take their own lives than continue to live with the impact of what they saw, witnessed and/or lived through while in combat.
They end up in a cycle of therapy, medication, or even waiting for extended amounts of time before they can even be seen in the VA system. Some of them end up having to get out of the military because the pain of what they saw and deal with on a daily basis is too much to bear. Is that what we really want in and for our military?
So I ask you again, what are you doing to support the troops?
The way that I would love to support the troops is to not even have to send them into combat in the first place. Especially when it’s avoidable. Unnecessary.
Some might say, well, that’s why they enlisted, they knew what they signed up for. While that’s partly true, I would venture to say that most service members don’t enlist because they truly want to fight a war. Granted, there are a number who do. Yet a lot of them simply want to get out of circumstances or situations that they were living in prior to enlistment. The military gives people a sense of hope. A new and fresh start. The opportunity to get out of their communities, their families of origin. To explore the world beyond that which they grew up in. To earn an honest and sustainable living. The chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I know not only because of the service members with whom I worked, but because I know that’s what my dad was doing when he enlisted. That’s what so many other family members and others I know do, and why they do it.
So yes, I support them by asking or demanding our leaders to not even lead us into this situation in the first place.
Yet if we need to enter into a war (again, I think it’s always avoidable, unless someone benefits from it. And since most politicians benefit from war in one way or another, perhaps it’s not avoidable in this country as we know it at this time), I’ll choose to support through tangible action.
Tangible action is spending time with people who have seen the atrocities of war. To listen to their stories. To see their tears. Their hurt. Their pain. Their agony. To sit with them, knowing there’s only so much you can do while looking in their eyes and seeing that for some of them, their soul has been left behind. Left behind in another country never to be retrieved again. Sit with that and see what that’s like.
Maybe then you would change your idea of support to one that looks like not even wanting to, desiring to, or going along with the stories as to why we are even putting them in a position to be killed in the first place. I really do hope that more people get to spend time with the troops and support them in this way, and maybe then, we’ll thinking differently before sending our loved ones off to wars to fight for people who really don’t care about them, but only care about themselves and/or lining their own pockets.
Yes, I’m angry. But mostly, I’m sad for our future. I’m sad for the state of this country. And I’m sad for our military service members who are treated as expendable and who may never return home…