Image: AP European history graphic Org.
I’ve been stuck… all week. Too much on my mind; too many things swirling in my thoughts. I finally had a post all ready, percolated and set to be typed and published… but then this morning I got in the car, and my usual Canadian rock station was playing clips from radio announcements on D-Day, so many years ago. There were audio montages of folks experiencing the end of WWII and some very old vets talking about their experiences. It was truly moving.
Just this week, I was out with friends and we got talking about the current war in Afghanistan and how far removed we feel, sometimes, especially in comparison to the generation who lived through WWII.. During WWII the entire world listened daily to updates. Kids had European and Pacific maps in their bedrooms, and the placed colored pins on the maps to mark the battles and progress of allied forces. People from all walks of life participated: whether it be saving nylons, clipping stamps, collecting metal, or working the jobs that were open, with so many men off fighting. In Europe, there was no group that wasn’t impacted. My husband’s family was living in Eastern Europe, and many were lost to the Holocaust. It was a World War for a reason.
And yet, I find myself struggling with the status of the war we are still mired in, twelve years after the fighting started. Essentially, we’ve been at war since the morning of September 11, 2001, just as Pearl Harbor officially launched the US into a World War that so many others had already been fighting. During the Vietnam War, there were nightly casualty counts, protests, images of coffins coming home. However, it seems like this war comes up most often when politics are being discussed. Kids today barely think about the fact that men and women from the US, Canada, most of Europe and the Middle East are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East. Children and families of military personnel live with that reality on a daily, minute by minute basis– but few others spend much time worrying or wondering about the fate of those soldiers.
There is a human cost
It’s not that hard to see why. In the shadow of 9/11 there was a clear and potent finger-pointing at anyone who was against the war. To be anti-war was to be Un-American, Unpatriotic. The Dixie Chicks, an enormously successful country group had their CD destroyed by the thousands, and received death threats, when the publicly denounced the war, early on. With time, some of that has shifted, as more and more Americans and people in other countries who have participated, question the efficacy and righteousness of this war. Regardless of whether we support or do not support the war, it should not be all about politics. There is an enormous human cost, on all sides.
As a nation, we are quick to say that we “honor our Veterans,” but they are not always honored when their tour is over. While suicide rates among veterans has always existed, the number since the current conflict has jumped to a shocking 22 per day! That is, according tot the Veterans Administration, a conservative estimate. Veterans often have to fight for jobs, as they struggle to assimilate to civilian life. Those who come home horribly wounded, do not always get the care and benefits that befit a “hero.” While some Veteran’s hospitals are top-notch, there are many that are woefully understaffed and poorly run.
This is something we should see more often.
This war is kept at a distance, politicized, and I believe we are left not thinking about the war, its veterans, or the human cost, the way we did in previous wars. We rarely see flag draped coffins on the news, as viewers did during the Vietnam War. In fact, showing these coffins (something common in all previous wars) was forbidden by President George Bush, and only overturned in 2007. The death tolls are not as prominent in the news and our collective attention, as they were in previous wars… though thousands have died, and continue to die. In Iraq: 4,486 US and 4,899 Coalition forces, and an additional 1,487 contractors were killed between 2003-2012. In Afghanistan, as of November 7, 2013: the death toll for US and Coalition forces stands at over 3,395, with another 1,500 contractors. Civilian death tolls in either Iraq or Afghanistan vary wildly, but numbers frequently are quoted at nearly 200,000!
<– Photos of ex-marine and his wife, that have gone viral this week.
The politics are not what I want to focus on, nor the numbers, or the who says what of it. Today, I was moved listening to stories from WWII, and realized that all over the world there are families experiencing very similar things, in regards to this “conflict.” Parents have lost their children, children have lost their parents. Husbands and wives have lost their partners… and the numbers continue to rise, while we go about our day and give little thought to that reality. So, I got watching some of the moving videos of the soldiers lucky enough to come home. I’m sharing some of them here, because I think we need to be reminded that there are sacrifices being made daily, by men and women who leave their homes to fight a battle they are called to fight. Whether or not we believe in the war, we should take a minute and consider the cost. Whatever I don’t believe in, I believe in the struggles of those who make that sacrifice.vToday, I took some time to think about that.
Get a box of tissues and watch some of these wonderful videos. I’ve chosen some compilations, because, let’s get real: one homecoming is no more amazing than another… They’re all a blessing.
Share your thoughts in the comment section. Did you take some time to appreciate Veteran’s Day this year, or was it just a day off? Do you have family members who fought in the war?
Faces of the fallen (please take a moment to look at the faces of this war): http://projects.militarytimes.com/valor/
Suicide Among Veterans: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/us/22-veteran-suicides-a-day/
Fantastic montage: http://www.wimp.com/militaryhomecomings/
Dogs get very happy too: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2013/08/27/dnt-wife-carries-marine-on-back.ktvb.html
Best underwater surprise ever! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIBy7SHQWH0