Veterans Day came and went this year, and I’m not certain I gave it a thought, save a quick wish that my grandfather, a World War II Navy veteran, was still alive.
I don’t even think I truly felt the consequences of the United States being at war until I heard a childhood friend crying over her fiancé’s deployment this year. I also watched a fellow churchgoer plan her husband’s funeral and burial while nursing their newborn child.
Recently, I listened to the song “If You’re Reading This,” made popular by country singer Tim McGraw, and cried. The song tells a gut-wrenching story of a young man serving in the U.S. armed forces during a war. The lyrics to the song comprise a farewell letter to the young man’s mother, wife and unborn daughter.
For many people, the story behind the song is all too real. I think many people forget that sometimes.
The American society is built on the rights of the individual. There is the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press. But more often than not, these rights are used in malice toward neighbors and fellow Americans.
I am not excited about the war in Iraq, nor do I ignore the rising number of deaths displayed on Fox News and CNN every night.
Like many potential Miss Americas say, I wish with all of my heart that I could snap my fingers and create world peace.
However, the fact remains: the United States is at war. I don’t like it any more than you do, but I have issues with those who protest the war.
It is not because they are exercising their freedom of speech, and not because their political affiliation differs from mine, but because radically picketing against a war on terrorism and calling U.S. soldiers terrorists feeds the fire of foreign militants by exposing division and disparaging the sacrifices of thousands of American families.
I realize there are servicemen younger than I offering their lives so that I can live here free from fear of attack. Because of them I have the freedom to express my opinion and gratitude.
Sure, there are similarities between the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq. And yes, there are corrupt servicemen who have treated Iraqi civilians improperly and cast a negative light on the United States. But in all honesty, when are there not idiots among every group of people? While President Bush may not go down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents, the debating and bickering about the war should be put on hold.
American servicemen and servicewomen are dying. They and their families need support. Bottom line: If what you’re saying, or what you’re picketing, or what you’re fighting for isn’t helping them, it is not only unnecessary, it’s damaging.
Americans should be expressing to troops that even if they don’t understand the cause of the war, even if they think the U.S. shouldn’t have been there in the first place and even if they pray for the next president to bring the armed forces home, they haven’t forgotten them.
Some of you are probably shaking your heads while reading this, and I’m sure many of you have great arguments for why we should bring our troops home, increase the number of troops or reinstate the draft. Some of you may just argue that the whole war in Iraq is a mess.
Suit yourself. For me, it’s not about being right anymore. It’s about people. I won’t let another soldier die believing his friends and family members in his home country don’t appreciate the power of his life and death.
The old saying is ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’ I’d rather we stand.
Shannon E. Stephan is senior majoring in secondary English education.