Lost in the muck of the presidential election was the American soldier. During the election, he was buried and covered by the tons of mud slung back and forth between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry. We heard plenty about oil and weapons of mass destruction but little about the American soldier. He was treated as a stat and not a person.
It is now time to fix that.
The U.S. assault on Fallujah has provided a sharp reminder and enabled us to wipe away the dirt from our eyes and fix our sights on the American soldiers whom I fear are slipping from our view.
And what better a day to remember than Veteran’s Day.
It reminded me of the thousands of American soldiers who, as you read this, are sacrificing, risking and losing their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. And by doing so on the premise of spreading freedom, the American soldier’s mission is rationalized as he risks his life for people half a world away. In a speech at the Republican National Convention, Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller got it right when he said, “Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier.”
And they are doing so in the face of rampant skepticism back home and around the world. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, for example, called the Iraq war “illegal.” And he very well may be correct, but part of me cannot help but wonder how statements like those affect the soldiers. After all, many soldiers did not choose to be there; they did not push for war and they did not make the call. All they have done is trudge on, through thick and thicker, to help bring freedom to a people who never had it. For that they are noble, honorable and dignified representatives of the United States and deserve respect from everybody, no matter who one may have voted for.
If Veteran’s Day provided anything for me, it provided an opportunity to forget whether I was anti-war or pro-war and just be pro-soldier. I learned I do not have to support Bush to support the soldiers. Indeed, we can disapprove and debate whether Americans should be there. But the fact is they are there, and they will be for a long time. So, rather than griping and complaining our time away, we should do something about it. You can go to Operation Dear Abbey at http://anyservicemember.navy.mil/MessageSend.html and write a note. It helps — and they need it.
Think about it: If it is painful for us to see, read and hear about Americans dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, imagine how it must affect them.
News of dead Americans is like a punch to the gut and is truly heartbreaking. So far, 18 have been killed in Fallujah and 1,149 have perished overall while at least 8,458 have been injured. American deaths in Afghanistan total 146.
With my dad a veteran of both Gulf Wars, I know what it is like to cringe when the phone rings, to watch the news in fear and to hope every single day he calls to say he is coming home.
I also know that he is anti-war. Most soldiers are, and most would rather not fight. They just allow responsibility to conquer fear and not the other way around.
The American soldier did not leave a life in America — he brought it with him and is risking it to give others a chance to live theirs freely. It takes a special and rare type of human being to accept a job that enormous and important. Just ask yourself whether you could handle responsibility on that level; ask yourself whether you could spend months in a hostile and violent desert fighting an enemy who knows no boundaries. Then think about your answer.
So never mind oil and weapons of mass destruction for a minute and just be mindful of the American soldier, a true statue of liberty.
John Calkins is a junior majoring in mass communications.