It’s deeply troubling.
According to an exclusive story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, more members of the armed forces are dying by their own hands than in combat. That’s the first tragedy. The second tragedy, as far as I’m concerned, is that very little attention is being paid to this fact by the American public.
As I see it, this is the major problem resulting from a volunteer army. Only those soldiers and their circle of family and friends seem to be touched by this horror. Because these tragedies are not shared by the country as a whole, a precious few Americans are bearing the burden.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on so long that people are no longer engaged in the pros and cons of them. Deploying the same soldiers over and over again would seem to me, at the least, a questionable course of action. When these young soldiers go off to war, many of them leave behind families to undergo the strains and stresses of everyday life without the benefit of one of the parents. For members of the middle and working classes, everyday life is made up of difficult challenges that frequently require more than one adult to handle. The solution to this problem seems simple enough to me. Our leaders need to wrap up these wars or find a better way to recruit more fighters.
During the days when our military power could be weighed by the number of sophisticated weapons we had at our disposal, things were decidedly different. When warfare becomes guerilla-style, with hand-to-hand combat and hand-thrown bombs, we need to ask ourselves: Are we prepared to endure year after year with enemies who are fighting on familiar terrain by familiar rules of conduct?
The fact that the majority of us are sitting at home with our families within touching distance while this minority of American citizens is undergoing such tortuous lifestyles is, I believe, unconscionable.
I’m certainly not naive enough to imagine that we will return to a nonvoluntary army. But, if that is the case, then we need to find a diplomatic way of handling conflicts. We are simply going to run out of people who are willing to put in the major portion of their young lives on a foreign battlefield.
It is true that we have a segment of our population that iscomposed of serious warmongers. Just as there are members of certain cultural groups in America who they despise, there are members of certain cultural groups throughout the world that they also hold in contempt. What Americans have to determine is: How much of their treasure are they willing to place on this altar of hatred?
My sincere sympathies go out to these families who have lost loved ones who died by their own hands. To all the mothers and fathers who have lost sons and daughters, and to all the children who have lost fathers and mothers, there is no way we can repay your loss.
We can only hope that this matter will find a place at the top of the American agenda. Folks, we need to come to grips with the terrible price that is being paid for our freedoms and man- and woman-up to pay our fair share of that price.
The military draft may or may not be the answer to this dilemma, but I think we owe it to those who serve and have served to seize the opportunity to work the problem out. The world is getting more and more restless and beset with warring forces on all sides.
We need to deal with the mess on our own plate, and we need to do it now. Young lives are at stake. It’s time to do the right thing.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.