Posted on | March 24, 2011 | 16 Comments
On Tuesday, I trekked upstairs to my neighbor’s apartment to hang out and have a few glasses of wine. While we were chatting, the subject veered toward her time at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah. She told me about the floats and the music and the on-lookers. And she told me about a group of Vietnam Veterans who were marching in the parade. She said the crowd erupted in applause and screamed “THANK YOU” to the soldiers. She said it filled her heart and she felt so connected and so grateful to those men.
And she wondered why it was that she didn’t feel the same connection to the Iraqi war veterans.
I wonder if maybe, just maybe, the lack of respect for our current armed forces stems from the media. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that the media doesn’t respect and honor our troops. But if you think about the most memorable military news stories from the past ten years, you’re probably going to think about torture, rape, and anger. If you’re like me, your image of the military has been tainted by thoughts that men and women become soldiers because they have no where else to turn. And those thoughts are reinforced by media coverage of the tortures in Abu Ghraib and the horrible mess of Guantanamo Bay and the recent report of the systematic and repeated rape of women by their superiors and their peers.
Certainly the media should cover those things. Certainly we should be alerted to problems if and when they arise. But what happened to the rest of the stories? What happened to the men and women who are there because they believe in this Country and what it stands for? What happened to extensive news coverage of the men and women who have been and still are dying on foreign soil, EVERY DAY.
I know I’m guilty of it. I know that when I think about our military, I often think of men trying to straighten their lives out or women who just like guns. I don’t think about the 18 year old boy who was raised his whole life by parents who told him over and over that the greatest sacrifice you could ever make is to die for your country.
Where is his story?
I don’t think about the girl who wanted to walk in her father’s footsteps and now serves her country in the depths of another country where she treds footsteps on soil that is even different from the ground she walked as a girl.
Where is her story?
And I know there are people out there who are making a difference. I know there are people in my very own circle of friends who are putting their story out there every day and reminding people that the men and women who are fighting over there are our neighbors. (I’m looking at you, Sally, Alena, and Diana!)
These people who serve our country? They are not all hoodlums and perverts. They are not all idiots and masochists.
They are the kid you babysat for when you were fourteen.
They are the guy you just passed on the freeway.
They are the girl in front of you at Starbucks.
The men and women who serve this country deserve our respect even before we open the book on who they are. They deserve our respect simply because of the uniform they wear. They deserve our respect because they go out every day and fight for our right to sit here on our butts and criticize them. They deserve our admiration, our love, and our support. And if it so happens that someof them are not worthy of that support? Well then, those men and women are stripped of their uniform. They are removed from the ranks. They are sent home in disgrace.
But we don’t, or we shouldn’t, assume all school kids have guns just because of Columbine. We don’t, or we shouldn’t, hate and fear all mothers because of Susan Smith. We don’t, or we shouldn’t, believe all business men are crooks, just because of Bernie Madoff.
And we shouldn’t believe that the men and women serving our country are criminals just because the media told us about a few.
Take a minute today and think about the last time you really and truly sent up a prayer for the people over there fighting for you. Think about the last time you saw a man or woman in uniform. Think about how you treated them. Think about what you did for them. Think about what you could have done to show your appreciation.
Now? Think about what they’ve done for you.
And be as ashamed as I am, that you didn’t throw your arms around their legs and kiss the very boots they stand in.
There are bad eggs. But people? These kids are fighting for you. They are kids. They are fighting.
And they do it for you.
So put aside one thing on your to do list and instead, do something for a soldier today? Even if it’s just saying thank you. Because they matter. And it’s our job to remind them that they do.