Monday, November 26, 2012

For Any Soldier

This post has nothing to do with writing.  

Don't say I didn't warn you.

On Thanksgiving Day, I happened across this picture: 

And--for some bizarre reason--I was both moved and a little angry.  Being choked up . . . I understand that.  I always get emotional when I think about soldiers doing what they've volunteered to do.  But it was the "enduring American attitude" thing that made me pause.  
Sometimes, when I spot pictures like this or those little magnets people put on their cars--you know the ones I'm talking, those yellow or red-white-and-blue ribbons that say SUPPORT OUR TROOPS--I get a little impatient.  (To be fair, I become equally impatient whenever I hear anyone refer to a soldier--or any person in any kind of uniform--as a "hero."  The word is so overused these days as to become virtually meaningless.)  A trendy magnet is nice, but it really requires almost no thought, and--honestly--is worth only a few pennies of support, if that.  

Worse, something like a magnet fosters the illusion that we are somehow on the same footing and have some idea what our troops have to put up with when we really haven't a clue.  Yes, I was in the military; yes, I served during Desert Storm, but I was never deployed.  All the casualties I saw were those med-evaced stateside.  I don't know what it's like to be far away from home and stuck in a place where a) people are trying to kill you; b) you don't get hot meals; c) people are trying to kill you; d) a shower is a luxury; e) people are trying to kill you; f) your convoy's been blown to pieces or someone just stepped on an IED, and that soft, sloppy wet thing you just stepped in used to be inside a person; g) people are trying to kill you; h) sometimes you don't sleep for days, or--sometimes--all you do is sleep because there's absolutely nothing else to do and you're so bored you wish someone would start shooting; i) people are trying to kill you; j) you worry what the heck you'll be fit for when you do get out, if you'll be able to find a job, and how you can possibly translate your proficiency at killing into something remotely marketable; and k) people are still trying to kill you pretty much 24/7.  Yeah, okay, you volunteered; no one made you enlist.  No one forced me to join up. 

But here's a stunner for you: in a country of nearly 313 million, a little under 1.5 million Americans are on active or reserve status.  Do the math, and you find that number translates to a whopping 1% of the population.  That's astonishing, that we allow so few to bear all the risk.

And we have the gall to say we "support" the troops?  What are we truly saying?  Really . . . what does "support" mean? Has the word merely become a synonym for approve?  Or I'm not against the military?  It shouldn't.  "Support" has a very specific meaning.  To support someone is to bear his weight; to keep her from sinking or stumbling or falling.  To support is to become the bedrock upon which a structure may rest.  To support is to prop up and aid.  To support is to be active.

So, get active.  Spend a half hour on a web search, and you'll find there are any number of organizations, such as, the Wounded Warrior Project, and Soldier's Angels, ready and willing to help you locate active duty troops, the severely wounded, and military families in need.  It's not all candy and baby wipes either; many troops have zero access to even a small post exchange and a ton of folks at forward operating bases have nothing other than a microwave.  These people need equipment, food, backpacks, magazines, toiletries.  Some even ask for dog food to feed the strays they adopt (but, sshh, don't tell anyone; animals are against regs).

A magnet is not support.  Neither is a picture or an American flag.  A moment of silence--of merely thinking about troops far from home--doesn't cut it either. 

This year, get active.  Become truly supportive.  Spend a little time; give it some thought.  Then, pick a soldier, any soldier.  Be the rock, if only briefly, and bear his weight.


Jordan Dane said...

Thanks for the links, Ilsa. There are so many ways to support our troops in a meaningful way and at whatever level of commitment works for us. I've picked out a personal project and can't wait to get started. Thanks so much.

Ilsa said...

Excellent, Jordan. Getting personally involved is key.

Ilsa said...

And what the heck are you doing up at 2:30 a.m.?

Jordan Dane said...

Ha! Just saw your last comment. Couldn't sleep. Had a big family dinner too late. Was wired.