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October 10, 2005

The military, war, and our soldiers

About two and a half years ago, the United States was preparing to head into war with Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, in the hope of uncovering illegal weapons programs and with the view of displaying the development of a new democracy in an attempt to bring about change in the Middle East. A year and a half before that, young Americans went to Afghanistan, looking for justice for more than three thousand killed in New York City and Washington D.C. And many times before, the United States went to war, with draftees and volunteers. Protest and dissent has followed every war, some more than others, and the main concern is the security of our armed forces. Regardless of the goal of each war, there is one thing that protesters have been most adamant about; they believe that the United States is sending their sons and daughters out to die. Withholding the draft (which has not been used for decades), this should not be a concern.

I have had many family members who have served for this nation, and they have all told me the same thing. They joined the military with the understanding that they would see active time in combat. They did not enter the military to impress someone, to pad their resume, or simply because they thought it was the right thing to do. They knew that their country needed them, and that a military conflict could break out at any time. If they were enlisted, but not ready to head out, they were in the wrong place.

Protesters often want to act as a voice for members of the military. Cindy Sheehan was one of the most vocal opponents. Yet, even as she has shown such feelings in the past, her son still served, knowing full well the risks that awaited him. They go after recruiters on college campuses, believing that the recruiters mislead students about joining the military. Nothing could be further from the truth; most people who join the military always had the intention to do so, and the rest recognize it as a calling, not as a way to pay the bills.

But why do we hear so little from the soldiers themselves? It is hard to tell. The occasional letter from a member of the military gets published, but most stay quiet. Perhaps it is humility. Maybe they fear being seen as a vocal group which already has the support of the government behind it. What I do know is that the real shame is that we even have to consider that soldiers defend their decisions.

The young men and women, my very peers, are brave and selfless individuals who believe in the ideals and freedoms that were established by a very similar group of people more than two hundred years ago. The very freedoms that the protesters use (but do very little to defend) are available thanks to those in uniform, but this does not give others the knowledge or reasoning of a soldier. Let the actions of our armed forces speak for themselves. They joined up for Uncle Sam; for me; for you. Regardless of the war or how controversial it is, do not question the judgment of these adults. Yes, they may be someone's child, but they have the legal rights, recognition, and respect of an adult. They are only doing what they knew they would have to do.