War is terrible; it is a sad to realize that sometimes it is necessary. Knowing which ones are necessary is a crucial art, a skill at which some national leaders have shown deficiency.
A long time ago, a strong feeling of patriotism and the honors and approbation heaped upon veterans caused many to join, thinking about their personal status improvement rather than big-picture issues or defense of the country in general. The eager and fairly shallow desire for acclaim and attention to which Owen directs us certainly applied then, and was a big factor almost a hundred years ago when we entered World War 1.
But today …
… in America’s volunteer military, that same service is often opposed by a small-but-noisy segment of the public and the news media. If you sign up, you can expect derision from such people. Look at the treatment of ROTC and recruitment facilities on university campuses across the nation.
Nevertheless, against this social headwind, some sign up anyway — and to these people and the predecessors throughout American history we still owe our thanks. We can be ever grateful for what they were willing to do (including to themselves!) and we can still press for wisdom for those who make the decisions about war.
I am now living with one of the “two young men” I wrote about years ago in my own Veterans’ Day tribute. I am in Southern California, and my son still catches disparaging comments if he happens to wear a cap noting his service. But not from me:
A Thank You to Veterans
I’m proud of two young men who served as sergeants in Iraq
We’re fortunate; they went in ’91, and both came back
And one yet wears the uniform and serves his country still
The other’s done his job, and both have gained a lot of skill
But larger than my family, I raise a proud salute
To all you vets who trained and served that needful high pursuit
We’re here, and we are free, and we’re a nation worth applause
And it has been at your expense — it IS a noble cause
A small percentage of us puts their bodies in harm’s way
Some don’t survive. You’ve bought the liberty we have today
And not alone for us, a hundred million souls and more
Were freed by US troops. You know just what you’re fighting for
And so do we — and so today I thank you one and all
For answering your country and responding to the call
Our job lies yet before us, to preserve the prize you’ve won
We proudly undertake the job that you’ve so well begun