I marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the Blue Star Mothers last week. Blue Star Dads can be Associate Members, so I’m in like Flynn – coincidentally appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day. It was a proud moment for the group – to be able to tout the Blue Star cause in front of so many people. The only problem was this – most of the folks along the parade route had no idea what the cause was. Do you?
Blue Star Mothers are simply proud women who have sons and daughters serving today in our armed forces. They also loosely incorporate dads, wives, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, step parents, and just about anyone with a family connection to someone serving in the military. It makes the group all-encompassing and accessible.
But apparently not accessible enough.
Throughout the parade, we received a smattering of claps and cheers, mostly as a reaction to the flags of the five service branches that we were carrying. A few people thanked us for our service and a few others offered their condolences for our loss, obviously confusing the group with the Gold Star Mothers, those brave women who have actually lost their children fighting America’s wars. The applause increased exponentially as we passed the reviewing stand and the crowd was told who the Blue Star Mothers are. But I question whether they shouldn’t have already known…
And therein lies the dilemma that confronts me – I fear that many Americans have lost interest in the men and women who have been fighting for our freedom since September 11, 2001. They’ve grown weary of hearing about war, even as our hometown heroes continue fighting it.
Oh, it’s probably not on purpose; Americans traditionally have short attention spans for the ugliness of war. And they get really ugly themselves with wars we can’t win quickly, as they did with Vietnam. We were all so gung ho for war after 9/11; ready to go out and smash Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and just about any Muslim who looked sideways at us. We held huge send-offs in giant arenas for our National Guard and Reserve units as they left their families and the safe confines of our neighborhoods. Some Americans also remembered that we had full-time Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard troops who were deploying in even larger numbers, from military bases where deployments are a normal occurrence and military families celebrate and grieve in their own way. Because war and war preparation are what their jobs and lives are all about.
Most of the Guard and Reserve units have now returned home, many after several deployments and in two separate wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. So too have the thousands of dead heroes and tens of thousands of wounded heroes, those both physically and mentally scarred. America has grieved for them and prayed for them for ten years now. But she’s starting to forget why.
But this war isn’t over yet, although many Americans seem to think that it will be tomorrow. I’ve heard genuine surprise from people who say “We’re still sending troops to Afghanistan? I thought we were ending the war?” And that’s true, folks, but there are still two years to go, as American troops continue to die and lose limbs, and suffer traumatic brain injuries and emotional disorders. And to make matters worse, some individual troops have done truly stupid things in Afghanistan that have increased the danger for their fellow troops. Many of them are pretty pissed off at that.
The easiest road to take, of course, would be to pull out of the Afghanistan war yesterday. But realistically, there are policies and processes that America needs to put in place, before we can walk out of that country. We need to at least try to establish some rapport, some modicum of diplomacy, if only so we can contain our enemies in one location and prevent them from attacking us on our homeland again. If we don’t attempt that, then our dead and wounded heroes would have made empty sacrifices. Americans need to remember that.
Some of us have kids, spouses, parents, and friends who are still rotating through the war zone – on their first, second, third, fourth, and even fifth deployments. Stop and think about that, America, before your haste to “just get outta there” overcomes the reasons for which we went to war in the first place.
It was still a great St. Patrick’s Day parade. And we’re still a great country. But don’t be so short-sighted, America. Keep yourselves educated about current events and stay involved. This war is long from over. And like those who have gone before him, I can only share my son’s life with you once.
God bless America. She needs it.
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