First, I note that I wrote this piece seven years ago and it is still relevant. I re-submit it here to compliment and support my last OP-ED NEWS piece 'The Vietnam Wall Memorial'--profoundly incomplete. Last, you may find it interesting to know that at the time this piece was written your government, the pentagon, the Veterans Administration and all media reported Iraq and Afghan vet suicides at about one hundred and fifty each year.
I write many commentary pieces critical of war-making and sometimes I conclude by stating that I am a vet who served in the U.S. Special Forces. Invariably, those who chose to respond thank me for my service before trashing my opinion. It is clear no one cares what that service comprised. It matters not whether I saved a buddy's life or rolled a hand grenade into a hut killing women and children--always the knee-jerk "thank you".
Within most of our living history, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are the nations we've invaded and killed their citizens, and we receive 'thanks' for that service. MSNBC's Chris Matthews calls Senator McCain a war hero even though the service he provided was dropping bombs on men women and children from 20,000 feet. Does Matthews think McCain was defending America from a tiny war-ravaged nation with no planes, ships or missiles capable of threatening us? Does he care?
The point is that we have been trained not to question what those who serve in war were actually doing. Matthews and his ilk don't ask. However, the 12,000 American vets who attempt suicide each year because they cannot live with the behavior their service required of them do ask.
The robotic 'thank you' from the American citizenry matters naught to the 6,000 vets who actually commit suicide every year because they know their service betrayed their sense of decency, and they experience this final, fatal pain alone--another betrayal. Do we really not know Vietnam was not about Communist dominoes, nor Iraq about weapons of mass destruction? What insidious rationales represent the true motives for these wars?
If we spoke these reasons loudly and clearly, would we still thank our vets for their service to those unstated goals?
The best worst reason given for these military assaults on the citizens of other nations is that it will make us safer. Dr. Ira Katz, the Veterans Administration's head of mental health, acknowledges that 12,000 vets attempt suicide each year and half of those succeed . Many more return home and live destructive lives impacted by drugs, violence and divorce imparting pain to families and communities and making clear that the violence incurred 'over there' cycles home.
If we sacrifice our children in this uniquely depraved way to make ourselves feel safe, what then is the value of safety? It is difficult to draw a clear straight line between a simple ' thank you for your service' and a young vet driving his motorcycle into a tree.
The light from 300 million candles will illuminate those connective threads.
Does anyone hear me?