My great great grandfather Bear (Yona) Timpson served in the Cherokee Mounted Rifles under Stand Watie during the Civil War. My great grandfather Frank Anton Merle served in the Austro-Hungarian Empire Army in WWI. He achieved the rank of Feldwebel. My grandfather John Merle served in the Fifth Army in WWII. His four brothers all served in WWII, two in the Pacific Theater and three in the European Theater. All made it home. My father did not serve. He did do some ROTC when he was in college, and managed to stay ahead of the draft, first by being married then having two kids, but if he’d been called up he would have gone. I’m glad he didn’t have to. My Uncle Bert served in the Army Reserve and later the Air National Guard. I was in the Air National Guard. Both of my sisters and brother all served in the Air National Guard. My Great Uncle Clyde served in the US Navy either during WWI or shortly thereafter.
There are many reason why men and women serve. You may not agree with the causes they are fighting for. Some were drafted and had no interest besides surviving. Others gave themselves wholeheartedly to the cause. Should we honor those soldiers who have fought for a bad cause when they believed they were fighting for the right cause? Or should we just honor the sacrifices they made regardless? We cannot be blind to why they served. Is it possible to turn a bad cause into a good one? These are not academic questions.
So how do you tell Iraqi vets who’ve served multiple tours that they were sent there for a bad cause? How can you say it to their face? To the ones missing hands, feet, limbs, and faces. How do you say it to those with post traumatic stress disorder. Americans said all sorts of bad things to our returning vets from Viet Nam. That too was a war of choice. Isn’t it hypocritical to say “I honor your service, but you sacrificed for a lie.”? There is no easy way of saying it, but when you consider what some of them have been through, it shouldn’t be.
Ultimately, each soldier has to face that it is a personal choice why they serve. We cannot ignore the social dimension of the sacrifice either. We can only hope that in the grand scheme of things that on some level that those sacrifices were worth it. If it were so important that we invade Iraq, where was the draft? Why were we as a country not asked to sacrifice for the war effort? We were told to go shopping. Why were we hiring mercenaries? Why didn’t we get more support from our allies? As it stands now, what we’ve done so far was not worth it. All we can do is to make sure our returning soldiers get the support and assistance they need.