Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Happy Veterans’ Day.
Bitter words, actually. Bitter because our Veterans put their lives on the line for our freedom, and for the security of our nation and the American way of life. Many suffered injuries that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, emotional scars that they will never be able to erase, memories of comrades who they saw fall.
Veterans’ Day is a day of remembrance of what the men and women who survived their time in the service did for us. Memorial Day is to remember those who fell while in active duty in our military, while Armed Forces Day celebrates active military personnel.
Our military, past and present, deserve to be celebrated. They made the conscious decision to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our nation, our Constitution and our way of life. Not all of them faced danger, but all of them, regardless of their post-training assignment, could have, and it’s a danger that they accepted.
Historically, there have been those who disagreed with some of the conflicts in which the US sent our military, me among them, and yet none of these decisions were made by our soldiers. The decisions to use the military is and always has been political decisions. This is an important distinction. American soldiers who participated in the Korean conflict, for example, came home not to celebrations, but to protesters throwing bags of urine at them, calling them “baby killers” and worse. Can you imagine spending five years in a foreign land, seeing your comrades killed, only to come home to such a bitter reception? Whether we belonged in Korea or not, this is simply unjust.
We need a military that follows order. In the W administration, the US armored troops faced Sadaam Hussein’s army, considered to be one of the largest tank armies in the world. As W postured, Saddam promised that, while Iraq might not win, it would be the “mother of all battles”. In fact, it barely happened at all as most of the Iraqi generals simply never gave the order and sat out the encounter. Later we discovered that the CIA had been paying off these generals making some of them very wealthy, but our military was there, ready to face off against this enormous army. If it seems shocking that Iraqi generals sat out (or were even paid off from) the encounter, that’s because we cannot imagine it happening to US forces.
After their term of service is up, many of our veterans continue to have battles ahead of them. The process of reintegrating into society, and into their families especially after an extended absence, is not easy. As we take a day to honor our veterans, we should also remember their family, friends and loved ones suffer as well and face difficulties of their own. Unfortunately, political pressure adds to this when benefits are cut, and their health needs are not met.
Not too long ago there was a movement suggesting that people should not thank veterans for their service. I have to admit, I don’t understand that, and I still like to thank veterans when I can. The reality is that I do feel guilt for having never been in the military myself. Of course, I graduated high school in 1981, and there was not a lot of military activity then. The most significant action I could have seen was Grenada, and while I don’t want to downplay this, it was one of our more minor actions.
The reality is that the reason I could choose not to serve is because of those who do. Our military keeps us safe by ensuring that we have the strength to hold off any enemy that might wish to invade. The training, equipment and support they enjoy is unparalleled in history, and in return their loyalty is key in our security. How can I not thank veterans?
Today, I encourage everybody to do something to thank the military and veterans. If you know a veteran, take them to a meal, or give them a call. If not, consider a donation to the Veteran’s Association. Regardless, take a little time to reflect on the actions of these heroes, and the peace that they bring to us all. Many thanks to my many veteran family and friends, and to those still serving today, and my heart goes out to those we have lost in conflict and in peace. Without you, we would not be here to give you thanks today.