Army Specialist James C. Young, 25, of Rochester, Illinois, died November 3, 2010, in Kandahar province in Afghanistan. How do you honor our nation's fallen when so few of us know or care about the wars we are fighting? How do you honor our nation's fallen while still opposing the war in Afghanistan? Would you go to Specialist Young's funeral? Have you been to any of our fallen heroes' funerals? Is it enough to say, "I support our troops while I oppose the war"?
One way to dishonor our troops is to label the conflict as if it was nothing more than a political act by attaching to it the name of the current president or his staff or the president before him and his staff. This is not Bush's war, Cheney's war, Rumsfeld's war, Obama's war, Biden's war, Gates's war or even Congress's war (though were I to choose the dirtiest culprit, I would indict every Senator and Congressman who votes to fund these military initiatives without a vote of the people). It was not Washington's war, Jackson's war, Lincoln's war or Wilson's war. And it most certainly was not Roosevelt's war. Constitutionalists may argue which body, Congress or the President, has the right to send our troops into battle, may argue the validity of the War Powers Resolution, but the real bodies are those on the battlefield. Do not seek to assuage our own complicity--Afghanistan is America's war.
Another way to dishonor the troops is to link the words "blood" and "treasure" together. Our service men and women's blood is our country's treasure. Do not foolishly believe that a wise Congress would redirect the two billion dollars a week we spend on our wars into economically beneficial projects. Believe that and you believe in battlefield resurrections. By the way, did you make it to Pfc. Kristofor Stonesifer's funeral? He died October 19, 2001 when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Pakistan. He was from Missoula, Montana. I missed his funeral, as I'm sure most of you did. He died at the beginning of our American war in Afghanistan.
In the summer of 1967 I received a letter from a Marine captain in Vietnam. I was dating a girl whose brother was serving there, and I must have asked him to justify our presence and the cost in lives. I have carried his letter from place to place for the past forty plus years. He wrote: "Thursday, 8 June, Dong Ha, Viet Nam. The one point on which I'll have to disagree with you is that the war over here is morally objectionable. Our envolvement (sic) over here is not only moral it is vital to both the people of South Viet Nam and to the future of the free world if there is to be any....The truly morally objectionable part of the war is the half-assed support the American people are giving."
Translated, that meant that we needed to win the hearts and minds of the people in Viet Nam who really wanted us there, and we needed to protect all of Asia from the consequences of the "domino theory" in order to keep the world safe from Communism. Just a few years later, I was there, and the hearts and minds of the people were on other things, our military and civilian leaders had abandoned us to a fool's errand and I only wanted to get home to a vanilla milkshake and the number one square on my paint by numbers short-timer's calendar--a reference you won't get unless you were there. A reference you will get is that in Viet Nam, they call that bloody conflict "the American War."
How do we honor the fallen heroes, respect the efforts of those who serve and still oppose our military involvement in Afghanistan? Lance Corporal Steven A. Valdez, 20, died September 26, 2005 at Camp Blessing, Afghanistan. That was in the middle years of our conflict. He was from McRea, Arkansas. Did you make it to his funeral? He died for his buddies, his fellow Marines, and for our country. We should honor them all at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut. I was there last weekend. I missed the anti-war signs that used to dot the campus, a campus known for its righteous opposition to all things wrong with America. Were they there? Are they involved there? We should honor them at Harvard and Yale; two places I was in the last month, and University of Colorado and University of California at Berkeley. And the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin. Places that used to demand from our members of Congress and our president an honest explanation of exactly why the blood of our brothers and sisters is shed on foreign soil. From Florida to Washington, from California to Maine we should honor our fallen and those who serve by demanding that the policies that cost our blood are agreed to by all Americans, that our mission is understood by our troops in harm's way so that our commanders do not have to explain the "rules of engagement," and that our American war is moral and right.
Finally, we should honor them at our high schools. From Detroit, Michigan to Madison, Mississippi, and from Sacramento, California to Jenks, Oklahoma and a thousand other places where military recruiters set up shop to enlist our children into service for our country, we should demand that every recruiter explain to our sons and daughters why they might serve in Afghanistan, and for what cause. And we should demand of them that when our children die, they will comfort the mothers and fathers, will be at those precious children's gravesites, and will honor them in their own hearts for the rest of their lives exactly like their parents do.
In Ghazni, Afghanistan, Army 1st Lieutenant Jane Doe, 23, of Houston, Texas died tomorrow.
Will you be going to her funeral?