Early this morning I read an article by Alex Epstein at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. It did not move me to tears as most sappy, emotion riddled articles do by leaning heavily on the emotional "for the greater good" basis. Mr. Epstein, for whom I carry a small torch of admiration, stated quite concisely that our soldiers do not wish to give up their lives for someone's agenda in some god-forsaken piece of desert, however, they understand the concept of fighting for liberty and freedom.
In some wars it is easy to see, after the fact, the liberty and freedoms they fought and died for. Not every war is about American Freedom and Liberty. In some others, not so much.
I was never so proud of my two boys as the day they told me they had signed their papers to join the Marines after high school graduation. To say I was also scared to the depths of my soul would be an understatement. We were already at war in Iraq and I knew they would be heading there at some point, despite the lies that Recruiters told us. I was lucky to have my Marine husband there to translate those lies for me. However, it was their decision to go, and I knew then, nothing I said would deter them. They had their reasons and were "adult" enough to stick to them.
My eldest son went into the Marines first and spent two tours in Iraq. His first tour was during the crappiest fighting to secure some cities with door to door urban warfare going on. His MOS was mortarman, but that did not mean he wasn't expected to go on the raids to clear out insurgents. The worst he got over there was dysentary from an MRE wherein he was out in the field and had to hump his mortar plate and pack while sick as a dog until they could get him to a medical unit. He lost about 60 pounds. The kids around their encampment called him Mr. Bones and he would hand out candy and dance to make them laugh. He came from a family that believed in laughing daily and wanted to bring them something good in their days. His second tour was a year and a half later and much had changed. We spent a lot of time on email and messenger services just chatting because he was bored back at camp.
My youngest boy spent one tour in Iraq and brought back tons of pictures that told a story that he didn't. His first pictures were of empty streets, burned out cars, rubble and were excessively depressing. A month or so later you see the streets cleaned up for the most part, and men on the streets and a couple of stalls at the market opened with questionable goods for sale. A month or so later, you see more shops, more men, some children. Then you see women at the shops, children all over and it looks like things are getting back to as normal as they ever can be in places that backward. He spent his second tour traveling the world, training with other military units in other nations. His pictures show that some Navy and Marine enlistees do, indeed see more of the world than a miserable desert.
Both of my boys got out of the Marines after their contracts were up. Both battle some PTSD, but both are trying very hard to cope and live normal lives as students and Americans. They work, pay their taxes, gripe about the cost of living when they're the ones earning that living, and making me more proud of them now than when they brought their contracts home with their newly minted 18 year old signatures on them.
Even though I do not now and did not then agree with the War in Iraq, I understood some of it. It is very dog in the manger for us to sit here and tell people experiencing the worst brutal dictatorship since Stalin that they have no right to be free from that tyranny. Is it our job to go in and "enforce" freedom and liberty? I don't think so. However, if that brutal dictator is threatening my personal freedoms and liberty by giving succor to my enemies, you bet I will go in and excise each one of them from their miserable existence. If I also happen to liberate millions of people yearning to be free, so much the better. But that was not Plan A.
Each one of our military people deserve our respect for doing the job the rest of us are unable or unwilling to do. For that very thing they have earned my respect. They protect the freedoms and liberties we enjoy and should want for every other person on this planet. To deny even one of them is to spit in the face of these young people who fight daily for it.
So, today, remember them. The ones who didn't make it back, and more importantly, the ones still out there fighting that fight so that we all remain free.