Monday, October 12, 2009

Here's Your Letter

To Whom It Doesn’t Concern;

With our nation at war on two fronts, it’s understandable that years of news from a combat zone will mostly fall on deaf ears. People are losing interest in the subject. For your disinterest, you are forgiven.

Few Americans having relatives or friends serving in a combat zone, so it is understandable how little they may think about the war on any given day. In their minds, it doesn’t affect them. More immediate matters do, like bills, work, and social lives. For your lack of familiarity, you are forgiven.

Since few of you are able to distinguish a general from a private, it is understandable that you often approach low ranking troops in airports and bombard them with questions about the war. You see a uniformed servicemember and see an opportunity to learn more, or at least voice your own opinions. For your inappropriate questions, you are forgiven.

Because it is an inexplicable aspect of human nature to be drawn to the obscene, it is understandable that you want to see photos from a war zone, however, graphic they may be. In some ways, we all do this. Because of your disconnection from the conflict itself, you do not view these victims as national servants. Your interest in such images, however vulgar, is forgiven.

Since it is an indisputable fact that no media outlets are accurately and thoroughly portraying the two fronts for what they really are, it is also understandable that you are mostly misinformed about the course of the war, its successes, failures, progress, and lessons learned. You have few options for learning the truth, aside from asking a veteran. You are forgiven for being misinformed.

For not caring, however, you are unforgiven. In fact, damn you for your apathy. When your country is engaged in war, a 7,000 mile separation from the conflict itself is still no license to forget.

For looking at a photograph of a Soldier burned down to the muscle from an IED blast and thinking little more than, “ooh, that sucks,” you are not forgiven. That man is somebody’s son, father, husband or brother. If he lives, he will return home severely disfigured and unrecognizable to his loved ones. Many others are missing limbs, or carry colostomy bags, or blind. Thousands more are virtually deaf. Their service has not been for your entertainment, but to safeguard your way of life.

For approaching a returning servicemember in an airport and ridiculing him, you are unforgiven. He is not an instrument of war, but a warrior. When have you last done something for somebody other than yourself? He didn’t join for a war, but to serve his country. And at any rate, he was sent by the political leaders you elected.

For hoping that the deaths of more servicemembers encourage the government to quit the war and come home, you are unforgiven. It is a disgraceful abuse of the freedoms they have sworn to defend. Their service and sacrifice is the very thing enabling you remaining ignorant and apathetic of the threats this nation faces. If they did not serve, you would impotent with fear.

For claiming that you are too busy to worry about the war, you are unforgiven. You may have a life, job, and loved ones, but it is so hard to utter a prayer every now and then? Is it so hard to mail off a care package or a letter of encouragement? Did you really need that last gourmet coffee? Somewhere, on some distant combat outpost, there are troops who would rejoice at being mailed a pair of socks.

For viewing the war as simply a poor economic investment, you are unforgiven. Do you presume to put a value on human life? What is the cost of NOT waging war? Does your apathy extend to the fundamental human rights of others? There are incalculable millions who have benefitted from US military action. Ask a Filipino, a South Korean, a Jew, a Gypsy, or other nationals from around the world.

For believing that there is no such thing as a war worth fighting, you are unforgiven. War is certainly an evil, but one undertaken to halt an even greater evil. You don’t know this because the military has successfully held the enemy at bay. Had they not, you would live in fear for your life.

For presuming that all veterans are inherently unstable, dangerous, and potentially criminals, you are unforgiven. Despite recent reports by the Department of Homeland Security suggesting otherwise, veterans pose no greater threat to the peace of this country than any other group. Considering that many of them know how to kill, the fact that they do not indicates superior character. They choose not to.

For preferring not to think about it all because it’s stressful, you are unforgiven. You’ve shown your true colors as inherently selfish. You enjoy all the fruits of the military’s labor, but you are unwilling to consider their purchasing price: blood, fear, unbelievable loss, loneliness, and at times death. Your ingratitude is profoundly inexcusable.

Not too long ago, an inebriated VFW commander confessed to me that he doesn’t want to know the names and stories of the troops overseas. He reasoned that, “it’s too much like losing my own children every time.” Caring may be painful, but citizenship bears more responsibilities than merely voting. Voting gives you the right to complain when the other candidate gets elected. Caring means you have a heart beating in your chest. If these men and women can sacrifice their lives, you can sacrifice a few tears.

Those who take freedom for granted are quick to either lose it or cede it as a small sacrifice for comfort. Its loss, however, is quickly felt.

Do you fear bombing while you shop at the supermarket? Are you concerned that somebody will run you out of your home in the middle of the night? Have you had any family members disappear only to be found days later decomposing in a ditch? Do you adjust the course of your day to accommodate fearing for your life? No. The military has ensured that.

What have you done for your country? What sacrifices of comfort, family, and safety have you made? Have you done anything extremely beneficial for countless millions, but inherently jeopardizing to yourself? Have any of you sacrificed a clean conscience or spent months and years away from home, only to realize that part of you never fully returns? Have you spent years trying to find peace with your own actions, service and sacrifice, but certain you have done something good? No, you have not. And nor have you felt the searing pain of your fellow Americans stabbing you in the back.

If something, God forbid, were to happen in the states, all these men and women, however disappointed they may be with their country, however betrayed they may feel, will once again answer their nation’s call. They don’t do it because they like you. Many of them don’t, and I don’t like you either. They do it because it’s right. Nobody expects you to fully understand, but they do expect you to try.

Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

coloradoaimee said...

I'm linking this on FB.. I think you say it so well.

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