Today is the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq.
There will be much heated debate and discussion today about how the war began, why it began, and the results of all the effort, cost, and lives. These are all legitimate questions, but this day should be used for something more important: to remember the thousands of veterans who served in that long war.
Remarkably, most of these young (and some not so young) men and women are doing extremely well. They have reintegrated into American life and are now leaders at all levels and in nearly every sector. These are to be applauded and admired. Others are walking a harder road. They have issues to overcome. Some of these issues are small, almost mere inconveniences. Others are severe: Life-changing physical and emotional damage is not so easy an adjustment.
There are a multitude of fine organizations that are working hard to help every veteran who has a need, large or small. These organizations should be supported with funds and with time. Many people, regardless of their political orientation, take the step to thank vets for their service. Every American should not just thank our vets but take some time to consider what they did for us all.
Our military today is all-volunteer. They are paid well, but pay is not the reason they go into combat. They are educated, a good cross-section of America. Contrary to some old stereotypes, the group that is over-represented is actually the middle class. The vast majority joined for all the right reasons, the kind of reasons that make parents swell with pride and shake inside with fear simultaneously. They truly are the best of us, our most precious national treasure.
On this 10th anniversary, perhaps we can put aside politics, for a day at least, and salute the men and women who fought, who volunteered, answering the nation’s call, giving up jobs and careers. They left behind loved ones and comfort to try to help protect this land and free an oppressed people. The arguments can begin again tomorrow, but for today, let’s put them aside.
America has matured since the Vietnam War. Today we do not condemn the troops who obeyed orders, even if we hate the policies that sent them into harm’s way. That is a huge step forward. Let’s go even further: Let’s remember and honor them on this anniversary.
To learn more about America’s veterans, including ways you can serve those who have served us, please visit Esprit de Corps and check out the short documentary Veteran Nation.