Monday, May 31, 2010

Conversation with a Soldier

Good friend, blogger, and regular commenter, Justin Scott, is a rare combination of brutally honest and lovingly gentle. I'd love to see him interview anyone and today he posted a discussion he had with a young female Sargent on plane ride. The whole post is worth reading, but here's a part that especially caught my eye:
I asked her whether she felt supported as a soldier by the American public and civilians like me. She said she felt very discouraged by claims that the war in Iraq was a "mistake," that it was "wrong" or "unwise." She explained how a few months ago her best friend had been killed in the very area she herself was shipping out to in a few days, and it frustrated and angered her to think that someone would claim her friend had died in service of a "mistake." I offered that those who oppose the war have her well-being in mind; they do not wish to see her and her friends killed in service of something they do not believe in. This did not seem to comfort her. This was probably the most striking part of the whole conversation to me, because I realized (and this is my opinion here) that to her, there was no "disagree with the war but support the troops." She had to believe in the nobility of the mission.
Justin wisely responds:
But if this is what is required for her to feel that the American public supports her, it precludes that the American public never disagree with the military actions of their government—which in light of America's military history (Vietnam being the go-to example) is essentially an indefensible position. I think it would be pretty unwise, even scary if the American public never expressed dissent with any U.S. military action once it had begun, even in the name of supporting our soldiers. Nevertheless if I heard someone calling a mission I believed in and my best friend had died in service to a "mistake," I cannot imagine how angry, disheartened, frustrated, even disgusted I would feel. There is a terrible impasse here.
I'm pretty open with my opposition to US military intervention anywhere. If Iraq doesn't want us there, and  most of them don't, then we shouldn't occupy another sovereign nation. For the loss of life both US and foreign, for the economic cost foreign and domestic, and also for the non-combat deaths after soldiers return home. However, this conversation has convinced me of the value of limiting that conversation around American soldiers. My grandfather, father, and uncle have all served in different capacities, and whether in World War II or the Middle East, they deserve our gratitude for their involvement.

Thanks to my cousin Megan Reynolds for this photo taken at the Ware Shoals Veterans Memorial.

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