This Thanksgiving, the thing that will stick the most with me is while watching football, we'll surely see the thanks to and from the troops videos just before commercial breaks. You know, the ones that have a young Army Sergeant in Iraq saying hi to his wife and kids, and another where a public figure thanks the troops for their service. This is the eighth year in a row we'll see these videos here at home.
At the same time, I can't help but think that some young grunt is watching these videos for maybe the fourth or fifth time from a TV that the USO set up in the warzone. And, while he'll strap on his rifle and go whenever called, part of him is thinking "How many more Thanksgivings am I going to have to watch these videos from over here? If you want to thank me, let me eat some turkey at home. Let me see my girlfriend and parents and friends for more than just short stints at home. Don't you have someone who can rotate in here for me so I can stop doing these tours for a while?"
Thanks to President Obama, some troops will see a bit of relief. By ending the Stop Loss policy, and supporting giving troops "dwell time" (as much time at home as deployed), our troops will get rest.
But, unfortunately, given the op-tempo of the wars we're in, added to rumors that we'll be sending an increase of troops to Afghanistan, there are no guarantees that troops might not see their sixth or even seventh Thanksgiving at war over the course of the next several years.
As Spencer Ackerman correctly notes, the reported decision to increase of troops to Afghanistan means our force will once again be at a breaking point. Now, we'll have to wait to see how President Obama addresses this point, but without a speedier withdrawal from Iraq, or a concerted efforts to grow the size of the Armed Forces at a more rapid pace than we've seen, we're going to be left with very few troops in the bank, so to speak. That means sending the same troops back out there again and again and again as soon as their dwell time is up.
Don't get me wrong, troops appreciate all the thank you messages, and getting a piece of home while watching football in the USO tent is maybe the absolute best feeling in the world when you're in Iraq or Afghanistan. But at a certain point, for those there for yet another holiday, the thanks start to ring a bit more hollow.
So this Thanksgiving, when you see those videos during the game, take a moment to think about that young grunt watching these videos from war yet again, and others like him. Put yourself in his boots. Carry that feeling with you through the rest of the year, and let it affect how you view all the news from the warzone, and decisions we make about the wars here at home.
Crossposted at VetVoice.com