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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Home Front

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So I watched President Obama’s address the other night - about Afghanistan and increasing troops and the strategy for the conflict.

Now, not to worry I’m not going to get too political here. In truth, I think I’d make a lousy politician – or at least a lousy partisan politician because I would be the ultimate wishy-washy-flip-flopper candidate. There are just a lot of issues I can see both sides of. And this conflict is one of them.

But, as I said, politics isn’t really what’s on my mind today. I’ve actually been thinking about war.

Take our country’s original war for example. The Declaration of Independence stands out as quite a polite method of announcing rebellion. Never has a war been so courteously declared. These thoughtful men almost seem regretful in their rebellion outlining a host of reasons and list of chastisements for their ruler, which led them, after much deliberation and debate to this regrettable conclusion: We, the undersigned respectfully resign from the British Empire and invite King George to…well, stick it if you please.

Boy, the rules of war sure have changed since 1776.

We are in an age where the world seems to be fighting scores of technically undeclared conflicts punctuated by exploding pizza parlors and roadside bombs. We can become so numb to the day to day violence that it’s hard to see through the noisy haze of the 24-hour news cycle to who exactly is paying for our fights – who has skin in the game if you will.

During WWII it was easier to tell. Almost everyone had a family member in the service. But more than that - the nation was at war and there wasn’t a single person that was unaffected by it. There were rubber drives and rationing, bond drives and blackouts. The whole nation shouldered the responsibility of shoring up the servicemen and women who were doing the fighting and dying overseas.

My brother is currently serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was originally there for a year, came home for about a year and a half and has been called up again for active duty for another year and a half. Bro is a reservist. He signed up for the Army Reserve after high school as a way to help him pay for college. He did his one weekend a month and two weeks a year for 25 years before he was called up for active duty. Now you can kind of do the math yourself there. He enlisted after high school, which is coming up on almost 30 years ago now. So he’s not one of the young whippersnappers running behind a tank or anything. He is support staff for the troops and helping with transportation and Human Resources. But he still had to leave his wife and his life to fly half way around the world to a country where much of the population would happily be willing to blow him and his friends up to do his duty. Not to mention that he is self employed and had to leave his business, which ceased to exist because of course he wasn’t there to run it. So, when he came back after his first tour, he started up another business which he had to leave again to go and serve his country. My Bro knew what he was signing up for. It’s what he trained for and he’s willing, perhaps not eager, but willing to fulfill his responsibility even though it’s coming at some pretty significant personal cost.

How many of us have been personally touched by the war? I guess I can count myself because of my brother. But besides emails, a few packages and worrying about him being in Baghdad I haven’t had to make a lot of sacrifices. I still have gas in my tank and no ration card. I don’t hear air raid sirens outside at night or have blackout curtains on my windows. I haven’t had to give up nylons or sugar or beef.

I’m not trying to initialize a debate about whether we should be fighting in the Middle East. Nor to I want to go back to the good-old-days of rationing. But like it or not, our nation is at war and when I think about my brother and so many of the other soldiers, I can’t help but feel like the burden of the war isn’t evenly spread. Not like the conflicts of the past. We have a volunteer military, so those who are serving chose to serve. And the thought of reinstating the draft scares me to death because my boys would be right in the middle of that.

I guess my argument today is simply that we need more opportunities for the rest of us to serve as well – a Home Front. As a nation we celebrate and we mourn together. Our defeats are softened and our victories are sweeter if we do them together. As a nation we should share the responsibility to win together because we will lose together.


Rachel said...

Mel! My sentiments exactly! I can't tell you how many times I have had these same thoughts. Thank you for voicing them and God bless your brother and his family for the sacrifices he is making so that my family can sleep peacefully at night.

Lori said...

Wow--Mel, you are so right. And so well said. It's been a little while since I had a familial stake in a war--my cousin flew helos in the first Persian Gulf war--but several of my former students are currently serving in this one and it's frightening to think of them over there, so young and alone. We're so removed from it.

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