Remembering the Troops and Their Families

Jon Perr

Memorial Day in the United States arrives this year at a sobering time. As the violence and disorder continues in Iraq, American servicemen and women stand in harm's way there, in Afghanistan and around the world.

To help us all remember and honor them, Sunday's Oregonian includes a special tribute to the servicemen and women from Oregon and Southwest Washington who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This memorial offers a list and images of those lost.  "Farewell to the Fallen" also features a conversation with Governor Kulongoski, who never imagined he'd be attending the funerals of almost 50 Oregonians lost in the conflicts.

The Oregonian's tribute is a poignant reminder that our troops and their families deserve our thanks and need our support. This is the first modern American conflict where the nation has not been called on to sacrifice. Our leaders have neither asked us to pay the cost of the conflict against Al Qaeda, nor to bear arms in the service of our nation. There has been no clarion call to conserve precious resources or to endure privations at home.

But since September 11th, 2001, 1.4 million American men and women selflessly responded to their own call. They willingly chose to risk their lives every day so that we may enjoy the freedoms and privileges earned by past, shared American sacrifices. Whether we supported the war in Iraq or not, we are each immensely fortunate and forever indebted to America's military men and women.

They and their families honor us every day. The very least we can do is to remember the fallen, help the wounded, and comfort their families on this Memorial Day weekend.

Over at Perrspectives, I've assembled a set of resources, many by way of the Defense Department, where we can help support the troops. This resource center provides links to lists and images of the fallen, sending messages and care packages to the troops, charities offering family services, facilitating donations, and providing care and comfort to the wounded. These and other resources are available here.

Comments

  • dispossessed (unverified)
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    Nice post, Mr. Perr. (And resource list).

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    Let's say it's the "first extended modern American conflict where the nation has not been called on to sacrifice."

    There were, of course, previous smaller conflicts in Grenada, Libya, Gulf War I, etc. not to mention peacekeeping efforts in Somalia, Bosnia, Lebanon, etc.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Jon is to be complimented on the good intentions behind his comments respecting the military, but he has made the same mistakes many progressives (some of whom we should admire greatly) have made; that is, repeat cliches and give a blank check to all. This means including personnel that have brought shame to the military and the nation with the good and very decent members that are serving in good faith - a trust that has been abused by their leaders. If we are to praise the military, we should make it clear we are only referring to its many members that have conducted themselves with honor to bring credit on themselves and the nation.

    Should we share the honors with the servicemen and women that have abused and murdered other human beings, some innocent, in the most horrific and degrading of ways? Should we honor the generals and other officers that have participated in the lies told to the American people? Should we honor the generals that must have known the evidence for going to war on Iraq was “thin” and a “pack of lies” as a leaked British memo stated and a British Member of Parliament told the senate? Should we honor these same generals who either lacked the integrity or the competence to be as honest as General Shinseki and then sent their troops into battle in insufficient numbers and without adequate armor?

    A case, but one that is controversial, can be made for our military serving in Afghanistan, but there is none to support our presence in Iraq. Many of our service personnel in Iraq have been persuaded that they are serving noble purposes, and they deserve a great deal of respect for putting their lives on the line for whatever honorable goals they believe in. But the reality is they are participating in a monumental tragedy and obeying unlawful orders. The real heroes that we should honor are those servicemen and their families that have placed themselves at great risk by standing by their consciences and refusing to serve in Iraq in accordance with principles that came out of the Nuremberg trials.

    If we really want to honor those serving in uniform, let us find a way to extricate them from Iraq in the least worst way possible. There is no good way to resolve such a monstrous folly. The least worst is the best we can hope for.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    Bill,

    With all due respect, I will have to part company with you.

    For me, Memorial Day is a day for reflection and honoring sacrifice, not for politics. It is a day to commemorate all those who died in service of the country in all of its wars.

    I believe there is a time and place to discuss how to salvage the awful situation in Iraq, how best to conduct the global war against Al Qaeda, and how as Americans we should restore our nation's standing and good name in the world. Towards that end, I've written at length about American foreign policy challenges, about the disgrace of Abu Ghraib and about the grave misjudgements preceding the war in Iraq.

    But for me personally, Memorial Day is not the time and the text of a tribute to the troops is not the place for that discussion. There are 364 days a year for action; I'm choosing this one for remembrance.

    Jon

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)
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    There is no honorable way to parse our support for men and women in the armed forces by means of a political litmus test. The way to preserve the honor of our servicemen is to ensure that their civilian leaders are held to account as honorable men.

    The necessary structure of the service is that members are required to follow the orders that come down the chain of command, period. You might get away with disobedience if following orders would make of you an inhuman monster, but you'd be betting your life and your fellows' on that vague defense.

    Political niceties are not applicable to life in the service, and servicemen can't be held accountable for them. Politics is in the sole purview of their civilian leaders. If there is blame for servicemen whose work does not serve the higher goals of humanity, the blame devolves upon us who failed to provide them with honorable leaders.

  • dispossessed (unverified)
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    I agree with what Jon & Ed Bickford have said. Holding troops individually responsible for the follies -- if they are -- of their leaders and of their country and of the citizenry that allegedly has also authorized the war, or in whose name it is conducted, is one of the saddest legacies of the Vietnam War. Fortunately, this is largely the one -- even if the only -- lesson that was learned from Vietnam.

    Support the troops.

  • Grant E. Remington (unverified)
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    When one joins the military an oath is taken to defend the Consitution. Obeying orders and the President is secondary. We are citizen first and soldiers second. As George Washington said; "When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen."

    I took the oath and believe the pledge to "defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic" has no experation date. Every day I honor those who have taken this oath. There is no one more opposed to war than those who have tasted it. It is our duty to try and bring about the day when there are no more war dead. It is our duty to remember those who took that oath to defend the Constitution, for when they did, they believed in the promise of that document which begins;

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    It is our duty to strive to fulfill that promise they believed in with our words and deeds. If we do our duty, those who have fallen will not have served in vain. Honor them by being good citizens.

    Wage Peace

    Grant E. Remington, President Veterans for Peace Chapter 72

    "Honor the dead. Fight like hell for the living." --author unknown, found pinned to the Vietnam Memorial Wall

  • Aubrey Russell (unverified)
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    Politics or policy, call it what you will.

    The honor of yesterday's soldiers rides on the conduct of our country today. The image of our country and of our armed forces today becomes the legacy that past soldiers have died for. So it is a disturbing indication when recruitment into the armed forces faces such lack of enthusiasm at home. Is the image of our armed forces suffering among those who are expected to serve? This does no honor to those who have served in the past.

    Meanwhile, abroad, few countries (peoples) in the world supported the US invasion of Iraq, and few would say that the conflict has improved the United States' standing in the world. Again, this becomes the legacy of those who have sacrificed in the past. If we don't comment truthfully on the condition of that legacy today, then when should we stand up for the memories of our family members who have served? Current policies are not adding honor to their memory. For the sake of our veterans, we should think --especially on this day-- about how better policies might serve their memory and perserve their honor.

    As we do so, we will only help those who are currently serving.

    --Aubrey Russell (grandson of WW I veteran; son of WW II veteran)

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Perhaps we should take time out for a reminder of what war is really like now that the department of war has decreed only sanitized versions will be publicized and lies will be told if necessary. If you don't believe today (Memorial Day) is the day for that, wait until tomorrow.

    This memorial - Flash video with Robert Cray - http://www.peacetakescourage.com/memorial.html - will give us, including those opposed to war, reasons to have a great measure of sympathy and respect for the service personnel in the front line and their families and an incentive to do something meaningful for them after the parades are over. There is a very brief political message at the end. If you would have a problem with that, stop the playback at the end of the slide show, and focus your thoughts on the photographs.

    Here are three ideas about how to do something practical to help veterans:

    In Central Oregon there is a veterans' outreach program to help homeless and other veterans in need of support. They plan to have a web site on line in the next month at www.covo-usa.org. In the meantime you can call 541-617-8777 or 541-504-8715 to learn more and perhaps do something similar in your own area.

    Contact your representatives in Congress to support more funding for the Veterans Administration.

    Severely wounded men and women are being processed through Landstuhl hospital in Germany on a daily basis. There was an appeal made last year to send them clothing and other articles they might need during their stay. I'll check to see if they are still asking for donations and get an address for mailing packages.

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