I had a good dose of reality Thursday night. I went to a Family Readiness Briefing with Matt. His brigade is being deployed soon and so the National Guard arranged a meeting to inform and support the soldiers and families as they prepare.
As I looked around the auditorium, I saw the faces of young men and women, parents, wives, children and siblings. I saw families, couples, and singles. I saw…people. Real, live people.
The last time Matt was deployed, Mark and I had a number of instances in which we were used as political sounding boards for those who oppose this war or have an aversion to the military. I can understand their frustration, and I respect their opinions, but I’m not responsible for them. Somehow folks have it in mind that those of us who belong to, or have a loved one in the military, are war mongering radicals. So, they vent their frustrations and convictions on anyone remotely involved in the armed forces. As a soldier, I’m sure Matt’s received even worse treatment.
I’m also sure that Mark and I will be snagged as venting posts again and again over the course of the coming year and a half. Each time, I’ll have to keep in mind that they vent because they’re ignorant.
Soldiers and their families do not cause war. In fact, I’ll bet you my entire estate that, if you ask every single soldier or commanding officer in any of the seven branches of our US military, not a single one will say that he/she actually wants to engage in battle. Not one of them will tell you that they want to be separated from their loved ones for months – sometimes a whole year – at a time. Not one of them will tell you that they want to see death and destruction. Not one of them will tell you that they get a thrill out of firing their weapon. Not one.
They will, however, tell you that they want to serve their country. They will tell you that the military is a particular calling. They will tell you that they want to be peace keepers and guardians of freedom. They will tell you that, although the cost in terms of hardship and heartbreak incomprehensible, they’re willing to make that sacrifice. Why? For you. For me. For every other US citizen.
They don’t want this war, but they’ll serve to the best of their ability. And for that, they deserve our respect, support, love, and prayers. Soldiers are people, too.