I'm always a bit conflicted on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. You see, I'm basically a pacifist. I think all war is stupid and I wonder why anyone would glorify it. But I know, I know, sometimes it's necessary. Unfortunately, I think a very small percentage of wars falls into that category. With 20/20 hindsight we can usually see how things could have been headed off. Alas, foresight is not so keen. And of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences often comes into play. One never knows what is truly necessary and what isn't. Even after the fact. But I think we err on the side of war way too often. We forget that, as Jimmy Carter said, "Although war is sometimes a necessary evil, it is always evil."
Here we must make a clear differentiation between those who fight our wars (and who we honor) and those who make the decisions to send them off to do so (who we generally despise).
When I see pictures of fine men and women at Walter Reed that are missing arms, legs, eyes, large pieces of their heads and even larger pieces of their souls I get pretty pissed. These people signed up to defend us. Few actually do. More often than not, they're on the offensive thousands of miles away from the homeland. This is an increase of tragedy. The loss is utterly unnecessary.
Our leaders should have to look at pictures of these people all day, every day. They should invent a computer program that simulates the minds of PTSD soldiers and make our leaders feel what they feel on a regular basis. Nightmares, daymares, jitteriness, moral numbness and isolation. And fear. Maybe they'd think twice about sending other people's sons and daughters off to kill and die to satisfy their geopolitical wet dreams. I'd even settle for them thinking once about it. War sucks the humanity out of people.
My own views on the necessity of their vocations aside, I have great respect for the people who don the uniform and serve. There is nothing any of us can do that compares to it. It's something I am constitutionally incapable of doing. Even when they are being sent on fool's errands, they are serving us. They are doing their job for the country they love. And it's not exactly a cushy one. Or a well-paying one.
It's almost criminal that I'm getting paid more for sitting in an office building than somebody who's getting shot at every day. Not to mention the warmongers who sent them to do so. And senators and federal executives get lovely parting gifts, including pensions and lucrative careers on the public speaking circuit. Your average soldier? Not much. Part of their college tuition and medical care. That's the very least we can do. Really. I think that anybody who goes through combat should be taken care of for life. LIFE. And their immediate families should be taken care of too. Why do we give a scumbag like Tom DeLay a bigger pension than somebody who went and got his legs blown off and wakes up screaming every night at 3AM? It makes no sense.
There will always be veterans of the military. I've got some in my family. Although they didn't fight, thankfully. But I want for there to be no veterans of war. It won't happen in my lifetime. Most of the soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are half my age. And it won't happen in our children's lifetime. It will probably never happen.
But we should at least work towards making sure that we have fewer and fewer veterans as time goes on. Can we do that, please?