A few years ago, about the time the current conflict was picking up speed, I was watching the political pundits on TV one Sunday morning, when the subject of the military came up, specifically the death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq. A female newsperson, whose name I will not mention, suddenly became agitated and a bit uneasy and said, "Well, they (meaning the military) knew what they were getting into when they signed up." I lost all respect for her right there. Her credibility was shot.
"They knew what they were getting into..." Another common saying, once again not true.
As my husband, a retired Army First Sergeant, says, if soldiers really did know beforehand what the military was like, they just might not sign up at all. I thought of comparing this to my experience as a mother. If, for instance, I had known about labor, would I have been willing to do it? Maybe- I did go on to have five kids. But I certainly did not know about it when I "signed up". In the throes of giving birth to my first son, I carried on quite a bit; some other women in the labor room wailed and cried out. saying things like "I've changed my mind!" or "I want to go home!" The doctor that was attending me, in a voice dripping with disgust, said "Will you hush!?" Thanks, Doc. It wasn't appropriate then, and it wouldn't be appropriate now, to criticize me for complaining that it hurt, or to say that I should have known. The thing is, once you're there, you're committed. Lots of soldiers, at the time of the Gulf War, initially panicked at the thought of actually having to be involved in a conflict. But they had to go anyway, and they went, and they served, despite their all-too-human fears.
It seems to me that a statement like "They knew what they were getting into..." uttered by a person safely and permanently ensconced in civilianhood, is just a way make it all ok- "it" being the use and abuse of the military man or woman who volunteered. Is his or her life more important or valuable or worthy of consideration than , for instance, those in the past who were drafted? "They knew..." A way to assuage the guilt, or justify the cavalier attitude of those who are in the business of sending troops off to war.
Well, it's not ok. Don't get me wrong, I was in favor of our military being called out to defend us against terrorism, if such a thing can be done. I don't want anyone killing Muslim children-or anyone's children, for that matter- but it seems that they give us no option. Forced into a choice, I will choose my grandchildren over theirs any day. Sorry, that's the way I feel.
But here's the point- military "personnel" are flesh- and-blood people with feelings and fears and hopes for the future and children to raise. They are often called "kids" but many of them are like my husband and son; my husband served in the Gulf War at the age of forty-five and my son, who is now nearly forty, will be returning to the conflict next year for his third tour. They are not different from the rest of us except that "more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life." They are Heroes. Their service is SACRED. We who do not serve have no right to judge them or dismiss their concerns.
But many elected officials- and some of those politicians who wear the uniform- feel like the rest of us- including the military-exist just to serve them and their agendas regardless of what's best for the nation. Military folks will go proudly and do whatever is asked of them- as always- but it's a disgrace that those who ask so seldom consider carefully or pray about their decisions. And then when their support is required at home, they turn away, saying "They knew."