The recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll looking into the views of the military community, both service members and families on the war in Iraq, seems to have been big news to some, but to many military families it was just a statement of fact.
From the Military.com site an article from the Cincinnati Post entitled “Poll Questions Family Support of War” (December 10, 2007) gives a pretty clear explanation for why military family support for Iraq is on the decline: “Today's all-volunteer force is older and more married than any before it. …At the same time, deployments have grown longer and more frequent as Soldiers rotate in and out of the war zone, sometimes three and four times, with no end date in sight, a wearing existence that has contributed to opposition to Bush and his war strategy.”
As one of those military family members, the bottom line is that we are so weary from the sustained level of stress from repeated combat tours, not just in one war effort, but two. And how do you suppose it feels to hear our leaders talking about the possibility of a third?
My husband retired last year with 30 years of combined service with the USMC and the National Guard. Three out of our six children enlisted in the military, two of whom made a career in the military. I often say I was born in the military, I married the military and I gave birth to the military.
So I get that the ultimate cost/risk being in the military is the potential for combat, injury and/or loss of life. I accepted that voluntarily when I married into the military. I am not a pacifist; I understand that wars are sometimes necessary. However, I expect that war should always be our last option as a nation and a people.
As a long time military family member, I have endured and supported my loved ones and friends fighting in both Iraq and Vietnam. It makes me crazy when people are so full of opinions about Iraq, but would never consider going there themselves. They have a multitude of reasons for not joining; just ask our Vice President why he sought five deferments during Vietnam. It was reported in an article on 5/1/2004 in the New York Times by Katharine Q. Seelye “Away from the hearing room, he [Cheney] told the Washington Post that he had sought his deferments because ‘I had other priorities in the 60's than military service.’"
Increasingly over the last five years, both in the media and among average Americans, the rhetoric around this war has become so mean-spirited and attacking that dialogue has become impossible. Sometime statements are made with little understanding of what life in the military is like for both veterans and their families. Does anyone consider how the bipartisan bickering feels to us?
As recently reported on 12/6/2007 in the Grayson County News-Gazette, regarding the service members who have died in Iraq, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was quoted as saying, “…Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers.”
To that I ask “and that means what exactly?” That volunteering for your country is relinquishing one’s right to speak out when you disagree? Or because our military are “full-time professional soldiers” rather than draftees, they and their families are supposed to hold their tongues and follow orders without a thought?
I expect statements like that made by Sen. McConnell, from people with a limited understanding or personal experience our current military. But as the mom of a daughter, who is a single parent, set to deploy to Iraq before the end of this year, I was deeply offended. I am offended when any politician attempts to use the lives of our loved ones as a political battering ram. We are not Democrats or Republicans fighting and sacrificing for our nation; we are Americans.
I just wish more Americans who believe Iraq is worth us losing our loved ones over, would head for the recruiting stations and actually walk the walk and not simply talk the talk. Do you really want to support our Troops in a tangible way? Give our brave men and women a break from repeated tours, enlist. Our military desperately needs enlisted personnel and officers; the maximum age of first-time enlistment has been raised to the ripe old age of 42.
Personally, I love and support our military and I speak out against the war, with my family’s full support. Both can exist in our nation and if that stops being the case, then we have lost who we are as a nation. What happened to “I may not always agree with what you have to say, but I will fight for your right to say it”? I long for the day when we can get back to having respectful, fact-based dialogues and disagreements.
Another point of contention I have regards something implicit in Sen. McConnell’s above statement, which is about our so-called “all voluntary” military. In the beginning when I began to make my feelings known, inevitably someone would try to throw that in my face, like it was supposed to silence me by pointing that fact out. After hearing it one too many times I had enough and I came up with what I think is a well thought out response.
Our police, local, state, and federal, is also voluntary. The biggest current difference between our current military and our many law enforcement personnel is the simple fact that the latter, can quit any time they choose. Their contracts cannot be involuntarily suspended. (i.e. Stop Loss Policy)
Our voluntary, though financially compensated, police force know exactly what they are getting into, do they not? They know each and every day that they are putting their lives on the line. They know that too often, they are out-gunned by the criminal element from which they attempt to protect us.
How many times have you ever heard the public or our government respond to the concerns of our police or their families by saying, “didn’t you know what you were getting in to…no one forced you to choose law enforcement as a career?”