Some thoughts on a solemn Fall day, on what we owe soldiers as leaders, and as fellow citizens.
First, from a veteran leader:
I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.
Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm’s way.
We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.
–Virginia Senator Jim Webb, recipient of the Navy Cross, a Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts, speaking in response to President Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address. (Video and full trascript here.)
And second, from a reader, doctor, and scholar who has spent long hours listening to the voices of soldiers ancient and modern:
What a returning soldier needs most when leaving war is not a mental health professional but a living community to whom his experience matters. . . . In my view, war always represents a violation of soldiers’ human rights in which the enemy and the soldier’s own armies collaborate more or less equally. However, until we end wars, we will need men and women to do the military work of collective security that allows the establishment of peace. Peace keeping and peacemaking will require soldiers. In the face of this necessity, we must protect these soldiers with every strength we have, and honor and care for them when inevitably they are injured by their service.
–Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam
A good look at the meaning of the experience of war, and the Powers that war confronts us with.
hReview by CircleReader , 2007/11/12