Cross posted at Blue Jersey
Every day of the year, our uniformed military sacrifices life and limb to fulfill the missions that we assign to them. Yet on only one day per year, Memorial Day, do we formally recognize these sacrifices. We do so with parades, flags, speeches, and barbecues. During the rest of the year, we may send care packages and drive around with magnetic yellow ersatz ribbons on our cars, but for the most part unless we have a loved one serving in the war zones, we go about our business and the soldiers are largely forgotten. Despite the fact that we are in the longest war in American history, news from the front is relegated to the back pages – after the headlines about Dancing with the Stars or the sexual proclivities of a politician.
While we say we “support the troops”, do we really? We send them to an ill-conceived war without adequate body armor. We put them unnecessarily in harm’s way by spending millions of dollars on corrupt or incompetent contractors who provide unsafe facilities that electrocute our servicemen and women. We go through eight years of Bush Reaganomics which wrecks the economy, making service in the military not “voluntary” but rather the “employer of last resort” for some. We stretch our troops so thin that they are cruelly redeployed for three, four, and five tours after they have bravely served our nation. We kick out motivated, well-trained, and well-qualified troops simply because of their sexual orientation.
So how can we support the troops this Memorial Day? Certainly we should continue sending care packages and displaying ribbons on our automobiles, whether or not these activities are symbolic or meaningful. More importantly, we need to realize that the nation is at war, and the justification for that war is subject to debate. If it weren’t for vigorous debate and endless protest, the war in Vietnam might have stretched out several more years, killed more Americans, and had the same outcome. It would be a fitting tribute to our troops if, by next Memorial Day, they were all home and the billions of dollars that we are throwing into overseas wars were spent here in America on deficit reduction, jobs, health care, and education for our veterans and for all Americans.