In a world where we continue to be divided and split down ideological lines at a severity unseen since perhaps the ’60s, we must take time to appreciate when we find common ground with those we don’t often see eye to eye with. It is a cause that, even amidst their own righteous struggle to bring attention towards a serious issue, all but two NFL players chose to stand and show respect for.
This passing Saturday was Veterans Day, a day in which we reflect upon the sacrifices made by many millions of men, women and children of military families who put their own comfort and well being second in order to answer a call to action much larger than themselves.
Indeed there is perhaps nothing less controversial than supporting the veterans from both World Wars and the country-shaping wars that came before them. They are, for better or worse, the conflicts that have created the world as we know it today, and our freedoms were literally purchased with the blood and lives of many selfless individuals, too many of whom will never be recognized for that sacrifice.
To those who served in the bloody, terrible battles of the first two World Wars, we thank you for helping craft a better world than your enemy combatants sought to create. We thank the hundreds of thousands of service members who fought and died in the Civil War to protect future generations of minorities from the heartless cruelty of slavery. For those who died fighting for the belief in a country free from rule of a crown across an ocean, we owe you a continuous, posthumous mountain of gratitude.
Although the polarization of support surrounding the agenda and merit of our wars has increased dramatically since the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the recent multiple conflicts in the Middle East – which persist to the present – it is still a pointless act of contrarianism to lob hatred at the men and women who sign up to put on the uniform.
After Vietnam, thousands of soldiers returned home from emotionally traumatic experiences – many of whom didn’t sign up for the war at all – only to be wrongfully spit on and berated with insults. The soldiers faced the brunt of an angry, confused generation that felt betrayed by their political representatives, who sold a quick, easy war based on good-old American values, one that was necessary to halt the impending threat of the spread of dreaded Communism. The reality was far from what was advertised.
The bottom line is that the soldiers fighting in these wars and conflicts didn’t start the fight. The 20-year-old kid who just left his family, his first serious girlfriend and the only home he’s ever known to fight for a country he has been taught since he was a kid to believe has the right moral justifications in place did not start the war. But he will fight in the war, and he may die in the war. That decision, which he made knowing the risks, is one of bravery – whether you agree with the conflict or not.
It is this publication’s opinion that providing blanketed, unquestioning faith is a dangerous way to view any subject matter in this world. Our planet is one that is colored in a trillion shades of gray. Simply joining the armed forces does not mean, inherently, that you are a good person or that you should be unconditionally respected and honored. After all, the man who killed innocent churchgoing folks in Texas was a veteran.
Nor does the fact that the United States engages in a military conflict make that conflict infallibly moral and worthy of unconditional support from the public. Scrutiny and oversight is as important now, and perhaps even more so, as it has ever been.
However supporting and honoring the dwindling troops of our past, who answered a call to support freedom over tyranny, do deserve that unflinching support. Standing up to the imperialistic desires of the early 20th century powers changed the world for the better, and their stories of sacrifice and bravery should be celebrated now and for all future generations. We can only hope to live up their courageous acts.
Likewise, we must respect the decisions of our active soldiers, and recognize that politicians start wars, and soldiers fight them. There do exist enemies that wish to do us harm, and our military – fallible just as any other collection of human beings on Earth – keeps them at bay and our borders secure from attack. We owe them not unflinching, blind support, but certainly decency and gratitude for their service.