This has absolutely nothing to do with Disney. I want to get that out of the way up front. Also, some of what I write here may offend some people. If it does, I’m sorry. But after watching the video below, I felt strongly and I need to vent. And, since I have this particular soap box at my disposal, I’m choosing to use it. I promise this will not become a regular event – we’ll return to our normal parade of Disney and pixie dust in short order.
In spite of the economy, there are many things we all have to be grateful for. Our friends, our families, our health among them. Sometimes it’s difficult to find that gratitude, but it’s there if we look hard enough. No matter how bad we think we have it, there is always someone who has it worse. I’m reminded of the parable about the man who was sad he had no shoes until he met a man who had no feet.
If there’s one thing we can all be grateful for, it’s the fact that the remaining US troops in Iraq have come home for good. Regardless of what you think about the war, whether we should have been in Iraq or not, we can all agree that the men and women who risked their lives following their orders deserve our deepest thanks and utmost respect. They served our country with honor. They have made a commitment and a sacrifice to protect our freedom – a freedom singular in all the world, and one that at times comes at a great cost. Most of us will never know the hell these patriots endured during their service, which makes their commitment to this country all the more noble. While they fought, we went to work, went shopping and yes, went to Disney World. We complained about not being able to get the coveted reservation at Le Cellier while they were eating MRE’s in the desert. We complain about crowds at the theme parks while they wonder if an IED waits around the next corner. We remain free to say and do what we want without fear of government reprisal because these men and women, and countless millions who have preceded them over the last 235 years chose sacrifice over convenience and duty over personal safety. The very freedom we cherish was borne on the backs of these men and women and we owe them a great debt for it.
And while our troops in Iraq have come home, we should not forget the 100,000 that still serve in Afghanistan. Hopefully one day soon they too will come home. But while the troops in Iraq have completed their mission – our duty to them is just beginning. This country committed an unforgivable sin in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam war. We turned our backs on our troops as they came home. As a society, we forgot about them and far too many of them descended into homelessness, addiction and death at the hands of an ungrateful nation. To me, this will always be a black mark on our country. Not all of us are suited to serve in uniform but every one of us is responsible to do whatever we can, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, to honor, respect and support these men and women as they return home.
Keep in mind that they are returning home to an unemployment rate double that of the general population – 30% by some estimates. Keep in mind that many of them will have to endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, not to mention the physical remnants of their service. Their reintroduction to civilian life will not mirror a Lifetime movie – the reality is far more difficult.
And let’s not forget the families. Those who have had to endure while their loved ones were deployed. The wives and husbands that had to raise children, hold down a job, and be that loving voice of emotional support while they lived every day in fear. There are heroes on all sides of this story.
If we really want to see our economy take off, then we need to enact another GI Bill like we did in 1944. Millions of men returning from WWII received college educations and job retraining that led to the biggest economic expansion in our nation’s history – not to mention the tens of millions of VA-backed home loans that allowed many in the ‘greatest generation’ to start families. As it stands, many of these men and women will come home to wages that will put them below the poverty line. Letting the technically adept, highly disciplined members of the greatest standing army in the history of civilization loose on the open job market would certainly reap huge rewards for them, and for us. If we can afford $750 billion to ‘support’ the bottom dwellers on Wall Street that helped get us into this mess, I have to believe we can throw some resources to these men and women who don’t just deserve our support, they have earned it. A letter or phone call to your representative in Congress wouldn’t be out of line. Of course, they’d have to take their heads out of their asses long enough to answer the call.
Besides harassing Congress, there are many other ways to show your support for the troops. AnySoldier.com is a website that connects people who are willing to donate various items to individuals serving overseas. It can be anything from a toaster or microwave, to a simple letter saying THANK YOU. TroopSupport.com is a website that lists organizations that provide a wide variety of support to the men and women serving in the military. One particularly moving website is TemperedSteelInc.org – a web site dedicated to telling the stories of those severely wounded in battle as they return home and try to rebuild their lives. That’s a particularly good website to visit if you’d like to be reminded of the resilience of the human spirit.
Of course you can also say THANK YOU to our returning vets when you meet them – let them know that you genuinely appreciate their service and their sacrifice – and make no mistake, EACH AND EVERY ONE of these men and women has made a sacrifice. They left the safety and comfort of their homes and families to voluntarily serve their country. Try and wrap your head around that – leaving your home and your family – sometimes for years – to serve your country. I’ve never done anything close to it and I can’t imagine the kind of courage it takes – I’m not built for that, which makes me all the more thankful that they are. We stand on their shoulders and I hope and pray that our gift this Christmas to those coming home and those still serving is to find any way we can to support them and welcome them home as the heroes they are.