Someday, many U.S. veterans — perhaps 15,000 or more — will be able to tell their grandchildren about the time they were sent to our own border to protect our homeland from invading hordes of foreigners who were armed only with hopeful looks and dreams of a better life.
On this day when our nation honors those who have served in our military forces, we hope future veterans never have to face any group that’s any more hostile than those Central American refugees who are headed our way and mean no harm.
Surely, that’s the prayer of most Americans: while we are happy to have, and wish to maintain, the world’s most advanced and potent fighting forces, we hope they never have to face foreign aggressors.
And yet we know that many of them indeed will have to face enemy troops during their enlistment. But as we recognize the value of every human life, we insist that any military engagement must be justified.
No one expects the refugees to pose any danger to our troops when they reach our border — although those troops’ commander in chief has said they should kill anyone who throws a rock at them. But the low risk they face doesn’t change the fact that this is the kind of deployment our nation should avoid: simply to make a political point.
War is hell, as the famous saying goes. The truth to that statement goes beyond the thousands of veterans who lose limbs and suffer other injuries in combat. Most recently, it’s evidenced in the young Marine veteran who reportedly shot up a California bar Wednesday, killing a dozen people and himself. The man was known to police and thought to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, a condition that plagues many war veterans.
The physical, emotional and mental injuries many of our veterans suffer is well-known. It’s why our nation generally supports government-funded medical care and other benefits they are promised for their service. It’s why we set aside a day each year specifically to honor our veterans, and why so many Americans make it a point to thank them for their service when they can.
Expressions of gratitude might be heartfelt, but they lack substance if we constantly put our military troops — the veterans of tomorrow — in danger without good reason.
We must show our appreciation through actions as well as words. We must insist that the medical care our veterans receive is the best we can provide, and demand continued improvement in the federal agency that provides it.
Most importantly, we must strive to ensure that those who serve in our military have the best chance of living out their lives as proud veterans rather than being remembered as brave casualties of war. We must demand that any use of our troops is warranted, and that any unnecessary use is avoided.
The U.S. War Department was renamed the Department of Defense in 1949 to remind us that our troops should not be used without just cause. Let us honor today’s veterans by assuring them that their children and grandchildren will not be lost to one president’s pride.