Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day, a day we're supposed to remember those who sacrificed their lives (or simply served) to ensure our freedom. With it comes the usual inconveniences: the mail is in limbo today, so the set of Illuminati: Assassins that my friend Dave sent me won't be delivered until tomorrow, and the big box of Heresy: Kingdom Come cards I bought off Ebay is stuck somewhere likewise. It meant that I had to filter through several email forwards (you know the kind) from an overzealous family member.

Way back in the day, I wrote an article for the Drury Mirror about Veteran's Day. I still agree with most of it, but the world is obviously a different place today. 86,000 soldiers were just added to our forces in the Gulf and Afghanistan. One of Liz's coworker's relatives is going - he's 59 years old and a grandfather, but because President Bush changed the retirement qualifications for the National Guard, he can no longer retire until the year 2033. Although with the way the government treats our veterans, he may be better off in active duy.

And that's really the problem. This is not politically correct, but I'm going to say it anyway: most of our veterans did not fight for "our freedom." They fought for Europe's freedom (twice), South Korea's freedom, Vietnam's freedom, Kuwait's freedom, and Afghanistan and Iraq's freedom. Sure, you can say that they fought to ensure the world is a safe place for us to drive Ford Incursion SUVs without worrying about paying $2 a gallon for gas, or that their proactive stance against al-Qaeda is ensuring our freedom to live without fear of airliners flying into our buildings. But those premises are faulty as well - as the Clinton administration demonstrated, active cooperation with the CIA to bring terrorists to justice works, while invading their countries only seems to steel their resolve and offer a temporary setback. It does secure oil rights, however, and allows those who would tell us to live in fear to appear to do something to alleviate the situation. But are these wars like the Civil War, or the American Revolution? Not as I see it. Those wars were indeed fought for American freedom. These others... maybe. But it's a stretch.

Does that mean we should not honor our vets? No freakin' way. If some country were to invade us - China, for example - it would be a war for our freedom, and they would be the first to defend us. Most of us would pick up our shotguns and be there right alongside them, of course, but they would be there first. That takes balls. Now this did happen in World War II, in Alaska, but we never hear much about it (the Aleutian campaign to regain those frozen rocks was one of the bloodiest of the war in terms of the percentage of casualties).

I'm currently emailing back and forth with a member of our armed forces stationed in Afghanistan. More precisely, he's a guard at the American embassy in Kabul. This is probably the most dangerous place in Afghanistan to be, since it's the most obvious target for al-Qaeda to attack as a symbol of the United States. Every time I write him, I want to tell him to keep safe and not to die, but it's not my place. It's his decision, and one he made knowing full well what the ramifications would be. For that, he and every other vet deserves to be honored. Not for the reasons the television tells me to pay homage to these fine human beings, but because they are fine human beings. They are going to come home and try to make normal lives, and ghosts of war will haunt them forever. That, I do not envy.

I'm not going to go through the ritual motions of honor being led by the new American priests in the White House and on Fox News. I'm going to email my friend in Afghanistan today and tell him that I appreciate everything he and every soldier he knows does. I'm going to offer him some free WizKids stuff, because I have stuff like that to give away. And I'm going to hope that, when it arrives in a couple of months, it finds him safe.

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