I hope that your Memorial Day weekend was enjoyable and safe. As we begin these 100 days of summer we take a moment to recognize the men and women of our armed forces, both past and present. We are called to pay homage to those that Abraham Lincoln said had "given the last, full, measure of devotion". It is it only right to do so especially as we find ourselves, in this point in our country's history, coming out of and still immersed in battles in foreign countries.
In one of my recent blogs I wrote about freedom of speech and, while we all enjoy said freedom, why it is sometimes more important to hold our tongue. That blog dealt with our current political climate and the entrenchment we find ourselves in as red battles blue for the soul of our nation. That blog was about politics... this blog is not. This blog speaks to something more specific, more sacred, than just political ideology or partisan bickering. This blog is about gratitude and how we, very often, abuse the freedoms we are afforded in this great nation.
Over the past few days the internet, from blogospheres to op ed pieces, have touched on a comment made by MSNBC host Chris Hayes and how he "felt uncomfortable calling soldiers heroes". He later went on to apologize for his remarks but the damage had been done. I am not going to get into the full dialogue that he used regarding this topic. If you would like to read what he said you can do so by going to http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/msnbc-host-issues-apology-saying-hes-uncomfortable-calling-fallen-soldiers-heroes_645956.html. What I do want to write about, however, is the ever growing sentiment in this country that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen, are somehow representative of an unpopular war mentality.
Searching the internet you'll find page after page dedicated to the cause of railing against the war by stripping our soldiers of the status of "hero". My uncle recently led me to a cause trying to remove a Facebook page entitled "Soldiers Are Not Heroes" wherein the subtitle reads "They Are Hired Thugs". This is just one of thousands of sites attempting to send a similar message. To say this bothers me would be an incredible understatement and I would like to tell you why.
I served in the United States Air Force from 1986 until 1991. My brother, both uncles, and cousin, served in the United States Navy. My father served his country in the United States Army. Each one of them served bravely, my cousin still serving, and gave a portion of their life in defense of this country. This story has played out in family after family throughout the history of our country. From the Revolutionary War to the war in Afghanistan men and women have donned the colors and uniforms of this nation in defense of its freedom. Some volunteered to serve as a career, or a way to learn a valuable and marketable skill, and others were volunteered by their government. In either case these men and women served their country and served it well.
Is that to say that all of our service men and women have been the bright, shining, beacon of moral behavior we would want our children to follow by example? Of course not. As in any group throughout history the military has had its share of wayward souls. But, in my opinion, the misplaced social anger towards our military presupposes that the actions of the few define the whole. Working off of this I would like to share with you some of my thoughts regarding this issue.
First, and this is very important, Chris Hayes, as well as anyone else, has the freedom to say whatever he believes about soldiers, the war, the economy, etc. As long as it is not libelous that freedom is given to us. At this point it would be very easy for me to make the connection between a people's right to say what they feel and the sacrifice of those who have served, fought, and died, to ensure they have that very freedom, but I won't!
Secondly, my problem with the "anti-hero" movement is that it models a dangerous example...lack of respect. We are taught that respect is not given it is earned and I believe that. In the military we are called to respect the rank even if we don't, necessarily, respect the person wearing that rank. Respect is something that is bestowed upon a person, or group of persons, in which we hold an admiration for their qualities or abilities and I believe that our service members deserve respect. Why? Simply put, because they grind away day after day, some in places we would never conceive of going to, so that our families can live a life of freedom. Period. That's it. If someone is willing to lay down their life for someone they don't know...in my book that's a hero...that's Biblical!
Thirdly, I think people like Chris Hayes use the idea of soldiers as a tool to address the social ills of the day. The idea that we shouldn't call our service members "heroes" because it might encourage more wars in the future is ludicrous! To say that our service members are nothing more than hired thugs doesn't speak of our soldiers but the civilian authority that have ordered them into combat. If people want to speak about the horror of war then speak of it but don't cheapen the sacrifice of the men and women called to carry out that war.
Finally, I believe that this country and its citizenry have become so complacent with the freedoms that we are afforded that we are in grave danger of being hoisted on our own petard! When a people begin to abuse the freedoms they enjoy that society is in grave danger of ruin. If you don't believe me look at our country today. Do I believe that people should shut up about the war? No, I don't. If you hate war then say you hate war. If you disagree with the administration's foreign policy then say it. But to use the instrument of that war or foreign policy as a stepping stool towards a higher aim is irresponsible and disrespectful.
I recently posted on my Facebook page a quote from Jack Nicholson in the role of Col. Nathan R Jessup. A Few Good Men has always been one of my favorite movies and the court scene is beloved by millions. In that scene Tom Cruise's character is trying to coax the truth out of Col Jessup and states that he thinks he is entitled to the truth. Nicholson then gives one of the best lines of dialogue in movie history. I would like to leave you with a portion of his words because I believe they accurately depict the sentiments of many of us.
"We live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. I have a greater responsibility than you can ever imagine. You weep for Santiago and curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know...and my existence, while grotesque to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at dinner parties you want me on that. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a lifetime defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom in which I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would just rather you say thank you and be on your way...either way I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!"
Don't get me wrong, we should always seek the truth. Truth is good. Truth is needed. But refusing to recognize our soldiers as heroes is not seeking truth. Many people believe that freedom is some sort of an entitlement. It's not! Freedom comes from sacrifice and then is bestowed as a right upon its people. It appears to me that people like Chris Hayes and others miss that point and that they believe that they are entitled to something. Well, then I would respectfully reply in the words of Col Jessup, Mr. Hayes...I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!