Every day, I see the story of a fallen U.S. Marine, Soldier, Sailor or Airman who gave their life in a country that wasn’t theirs. And I realize we’re a little poorer for it.
Every day, I see a different version of the fallen, those who came back from the countries that weren’t theirs. Many came back without all the faculties and abilities we sent them with. And they couldn’t deal with what had happened to them there, or what they’d done, or both, so they take their own life. And I realize we’re a little poorer for it.
Every day, I see stories of veterans that come home, only to be discarded by their country. Without any help, they end up on the street, begging for the loose change in someone’s pocket. And I realize that eventually, we’re going to be so poor that our country may never recover.
Is there a way to keep from bankrupting our country completely?
The motivations of our country that sends us to war
We’re sent to war for various reasons. Sometimes it’s to oppose someone that if they were to gain more power, the entire world would suffer. We know what happened with Saddam Hussein and his WMDs (or lack thereof), but Hitler is probably one we can all agree on. Most of the free world marched to war to stop Hitler, and we were successful. Sadly, it wasn’t the death of his ideology, just his body, so we’re still dealing with his evil today.
Our young people march off to war to fight evil in some form or another, to do the patriotic thing. But is it all about patriotism?
The motivations of those who answer the call to war
For some of us, it is the call to defend our country that motivates us to join. Pat Tillman gave up a career in the NFL after 9/11 because he felt so strongly about what had happened. He then gave up his life on a hill in Afghanistan for the country he loved. The country that covered up the cause of his death … because it was from friendly fire. (If you want to learn more, I suggest reading by Jon Krakauer. It’s a tough read but objective. Well, as objective as that subject gets.) But Tillman joined out of sheer patriotism and died on a hill in a country that wasn’t his.
More of us (yes, I’m a former Marine) joined to get out of our circumstances. I was a smart but unmotivated kid, so my grades sucked when I finally managed to limp across the graduation finish line. Not wanting to live another two years at home, I looked around to find a way out of my home town.
I ended up joining the Marines because being a jet engine mechanic sounded cool! While I learned some good things, the bad things I learned have stuck with me, too. In case you’re wondering, sexual harassment and assault didn’t just start when it was brought to light, it was there all along. I know both first hand. But that is a story for another day.
Many of our young people join to gain the promise of a paid education in exchange for a few years out of their lives. Sadly, some end up giving their lives for that promise. They die in a country that’s not theirs, without ever seeing the inside of a classroom.
A few of us are immigrants to this country, undocumented or otherwise, who choose to join. As a path to citizenship, it’s a tough one. But given the current political climate, it may be the only one open to some. that military service can be a way to become a citizen. It’s not a stretch to assume the reason he’s granting it: not out of wanting to allow a way for people to gain citizenship (ahem, building a wall) but out of the need for cannon fodder to feed his antagonistic ways. (In case you think that’s a new idea, you need to read up on the .)
Why understanding war itself isn’t required
I was prompted to write this piece from this statement: My inner conflict between being patriotic and understanding the death and destruction of war. Personally, I don’t think there’s a way to understand war, only to acknowledge its continuing existence in the world. Even if you go to war, you’ll likely never really understand it.
Perhaps in several generations, we’ll have outlived those that send us to war and the reasons why they think it’s necessary. Or maybe not, if that ideology just keeps getting passed down to each new generation. For now, we have to work with what we have. Here’s what I believe:
You can be patriotic without ever understanding or condoning war.
This isn’t a one-or-the-other sort of choice. Yes, the cognitive dissonance can be unsettling, I agree. But if you focus on the people more often and less on the concept of war, I find it helps. There are ways to lessen the conflict you feel: volunteering for a veterans’ organization, donating to refugees affected by war, marching on Capitol Hill to make your voice heard. I find doing something always helps.
You may have noticed I keep saying, “some of us” but that I don’t fit in every group I mentioned. Some love to say it’s “our country” but somehow it ends up that “you” should go fight for it. No matter which side of the aisle you stand on, it should always be “us”. That’s the only way we’re not going to go bankrupt. Because it will happen: from throwing our people into the war machine and following it with our moral compass.
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