Memorial Day 2015

Fact:  America worships its military.  It has all the trappings of a religion.  Just as the Romans worshipped Mars, he remains one of our favorite gods today.

Fact:  There are soldiers and there are warriors.  They are not the same thing.  Even when they wear the same uniforms, the difference is in their heads. 

Fact:  Not everyone who wears the uniform is a hero.  Calling them heroes cheapens the meaning of the word, and diminishes those who really have done heroic deeds. 

Fact:  Soldiers (and warriors) are tools.  They exist for one of two reasons:  (1) the defense of a nation; or (2) the subjugation of other nations.  A tool is amoral.  It can be used correctly, or incorrectly, and neither is the fault or the tool.  We can deploy our military on righteous missions, or we can send them on missions to expand our empire, and they have no choice but to obey.

What determines whether a mission is “good” or “bad”?  Is it the way the current administration feels?  That could create a whipsaw effect, with one party sending the military to do “social missions”, the next one sending preemptive strikes against perceived enemy, etc.  No, the foreign policy of the executive branch should not determine whether we go to war or not.

Back up and look at the Oath of Enlistment, then compare it to the Oath of Service of every elected public official.  They are almost identical – they pledge allegiance – not to the country; not to the flag; not to the king or the president; not to Congress.  They pledge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.  This is one of those things that makes the USA unique.  No other country does this!

If the Oath is to the Constitution, then should not the righteousness of every mission be measured against that document?  Is that so hard to understand?

Fact:  Soldiers who serve on unconstitutional missions are not “defending our freedoms”.  Indeed, they are diminishing our freedoms.  But don’t blame them.  They are just following orders, right?  (That sounds vaguely familiar.)  The politicians who send them on unlawful (unconstitutional) missions should be held accountable.  But they rarely are.

It’s tough to be in the military in lots of ways.  One of those is how to balance what you believe to be an unlawful order with the future of your career, and the financial security of your family.

I cannot help wonder whether the current suicide rate among veterans – (22 a day!  Can that be right?) – whether that might be related to some of the things they were required to do, some of the conditions under which they were required to fight, some of the sense of lost hope in the American Dream that we are the good guys.  They signed up and went over believing that they were there to defend freedom.  They’ve been told that by every TV program and move, every pastor, every recruiter, every drill instructor they’ve ever met.  They got over there and saw that they were protecting nothing except their own lives until the tour was over.  They found that “nation building” is a hoax, perpetrated by politicians with an agenda.

That has to be depressing.  They gave up jobs and families and sometimes limbs, and went to serve in a hellhole for what?  To satisfy the political agenda of politicians back home?  Yeah, that’s really worth dying for.  They lost friends, and they feel guilty about that.  They come home to no job, the woman gone to another man, to a reality that seems totally unreal to them.  They lose their bearings.  And in the middle of all this, everywhere they go, someone wants to pat them on the back and buy them a cup of coffee or a beer and tell them what heroes they are.  They know it’s a lie.  And that depresses them further. 

What can we do to help?

  1. Unless they won medals for bravery, do not call them heroes.
  2. Be a friend without being judgmental about the war.  It’s not their fault.  Don’t press them to talk about it.
  3. Help them find a job, or better yet, to master a trade and find a really good job.
  4. Draw them into a circle of friends who will include them and help them know they belong, while the scars from their time in uniform are healing. 
  5. Encourage them to study the Constitution – which they swore to support and defend, and yet something they were never taught about – not in school, not in the military. 

Once they understand that they were pawns in a game, some of them will be mad.  Stay with them and help them channel that energy into a constructive path – electing politicians who do understand the Constitution, and who will not send our troops to wars of conquest, or to no-win wars, or to “multi-jurisdictional task forces” which are United Nations’ wars. 

This is how you cherish the memory of those who went before – pay it forward.

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