Price Paid

There is a reason to support the troops, a reason why I always believe it is possible to give support to our military even if you don’t necessarily agree with the war that they are fighting.

Spending most of my adult life in the military, and continuing to work for the military as a federal employee even after my service was finished, I know what the men and women in our military are really like.  They aren’t the kind of heroes you see on television, They’re not some strange mythical class.  They’re just people.

People who do extraordinary things and make extraordinary sacrifices, and this, for many of them, is “just part of the job.”

There is no homogenous military culture.  You’ve got your liberals and your conservatives just like you have the folks who love what they do, and the folks who plod along, counting the days until their service is up.  Some have families, others would be almost indistinguishable from your typical college kid.  And while some may spend most of their free time at the bar or the club, others would prefer to stay at home messing around on the computer, reading books, or just watching television with their children and spouses.

But they raise their hands, and they swear their life to their chosen occupation, and it is that distinction that is so nobel.  They weren’t bred to defend this country, they chose to with no more or less natural attributes to do so than any of the rest of us.

And so we “support the troops”.  It’s the decent thing to do.  When you have the time, you write a letter or you donate to a charity.  You send a care package, or just once in a while say thanks to someone who pledged to sacrifice himself or herself for the preservation of your way of life.

Support the troops.

Over the past seven years, we have seen that sentiment stripped and robbed of its meaning, politicized, and used like a blunt instrument primarily the neoconservative ideologues in power.  The tactic was as effective as it was insidious.  “Support the Troops” became a shield, and to this day remains so in some circles.  It is a shield to protect the governing ideology that holds our foreign policy in a tight grip against those ideas and persons expressing them that run contrary to the policies in place.

If you are against the Iraq War, you don’t support the troops.

I beg to differ.

Supporting the troops has nothing to do with the war they are fighting.  It has everything to do with the troops.  It has everything to do with letting the troops know that whatever fight they are fighting, Americans back home appreciate the effort.  It has everything to do with letting the troops know that while they are fulfilling their duties, we back home are taking care of their families and making sure their loved ones have a roof over their heads, and food on their plates.  It has everything to do with letting the troop know that he or she will be taken care of if things come to that.

In a war like Iraq, where the numbers of those who are injured in battle far outweigh the numbers of those who perish, this last item means all the difference.

Which brings us to the story of Jordan Fox.  Fox enlisted in the military and went over to Iraq to serve his country.  Proudly serve, might I add; he wasn’t like me who spent much of my earlier years as a bitter sailor.  After finishing the military, he wanted to go on and become a police officer, continuing a fine tradition of public service; first keeping us safe abroad, and then keeping us safe on our own streets here at home.

Fox’s service was cut three months short, however, when he was struck by a roadside bomb.  Seriously injured, Fox could no longer continue to serve in the military that made him so proud and his dreams of one day becoming a police officer were shattered.

This, unfortunately, is sometimes the cost of war, and the price men and women are sometimes asked to pay in the service of their country.  Even after the fact, Fox continued to help deliver care packages to his former brothers and sisters in arms, helping his mother who had started an organization that shows the true meaning of supporting the troops called Operation Pittsburgh Pride.

The effort of Operation Pittsburgh Pride was enough that it received the personal gratitude of the president.  But, I wonder, when did that gratitude end?  I ask this because not long after the roadside bomb ended Fox’s military career, the Army asked for Fox to return three of the ten thousand dollars he received in a signing bonus.

And before a single Bush apologist tries to make a distinction between the president, and the Army, President Bush is the highest ranking officer of all branches of the uniformed service; he is directly responsible for this outrage.

And that is what this is, an outrage.  This news story, coming at a time that millions upon millions of Americans are gathering to give thanks for the blessing that fill our lives, sometimes without the presence of our loved ones who are still over there in Iraq, comes as a disturbing reminder that for far too many people, particularly those that continue to extoll the virtues of beating the drums to this war, and others yet to come, that supporting the troops is the equivalent to rooting for your team on game day.

Meanwhile, because these are real people, with real families, and real lives, once their injury takes them back to the locker room, they don’t cease to exist.  Because the cameras have been taken off of them while the rest of the players continue to play on the field, they must deal with the aftermath that the war has imprinted indellibly on their lives.

Before all of this, though, another price was paid.  You see, the price that the administration and the military sometimes must pay, particularly in times when recruitment is down (maybe because an unpopular war might not be the best way to convince someone to join the service), is a signing bonus; added incentive for young men and women to raise their right hand, take the oath, and don the uniform.

They paid for the service, and they got their money’s worth.  Fox did not desert the Army, he was crippled on the field of battle.  That signing bonus was the price this administration and this military paid for Fox’s sacrifice.

If supporting the troops held any meaning at all, they would not even dare to ask for the money back.

2 Responses to “Price Paid”

  1. xranger says:

    These servicemen should fight this with every fiber they possess; I’m sure they could get high-profile attornies pro-bono.

    To blame the Prez on a bureaucratic stance is stupid.

  2. Proud NCO says:

    This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

    -General Douglas MacArthur

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook