NOTE: I’m starting off by saying this is my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. I’m not laying blame on anyone except to say there were those who didn’t live up to their end of the deal. I’m more concerned with the American fighting man and woman, many of who gave of themselves under the worst of conditions.
Feel free to agree or disagree with me. I think I’m venting anyway in this.
I drove past a military cemetery the other day. No big deal in that. thousands of people do that every day. To most of us, it’s nothing more than a mile marker on our commute to work. But I ended up looking out over a graveyard.
Nothing profound about it, just lots of white headstones matching across several acres of grass. But here and there, a small flag fluttered. Under the grass slept someone who had served in our military. I knew if I were to do a more than casual walk through it I’d see graves going back to the First World War. Most of the men and women who slept there had survived their wars, raised families, then died.
I had a troubling question on my mind, and I remembered something Mark Twain is supposed to have said when he wrote “The War Prayer.” His daughter told him they’d crucify him for writing it. He thought about, and then said, “Publish it after I’m dead. Only dead men tell the truth.”
Well, boys and girls, I wondered, taking that advice. What do you think of the mess our country stepped in this time? I mean they (meaning the Taliban) think they whipped us.
I thought of a picture I saw. A lone soldier walking up the ramp of a cargo plane. The picture was taken at night and we see him as a ghostly green image. His head appears to be down a little. I don’t know if the emotion in the picture was real or just when the picture was taken. But that man, Maj. General Chris Donahue of the 82nd Airborne, his image boarding the plane will be burned into my brain forever.
He looked tired, relieved, and a lot disappointed. or maybe I was reading into it something I felt.
We’re told he was the last U.S. Soldier out of Afghanistan. I wonder what he was thinking. Did he think we were beaten and that the blood we shed was for nothing? I’m sure General Donahue is to much a pro to come out and say what he felt at the moment. We may have to wait for a book well after he retired before we find out.
But were we beaten? Was the best army in the world whipped by a bunch of third world individuals, most of who couldn’t read much if any.
As I thought about it, I thought about who is our military?
Each member of our military is someone’s son or daughter. They are someone’s mother or father. They’re the kid down the street who always left his bike in the middle of the road. They’re the waiter or waitress who brought or brings you coffee in the morning. They’re the person who works or worked at the 7-11. They’re the valedictorian in your graduating class and they’re also the person who barely graduated. They might be the doctor who treated you for a cold last year, or the nurse who looked after your grandmother. They’re the guy who stocked the shelves in your market, or the girl working as a flagman on a road crew.
They are the people all around you. The uniform doesn’t understand things like gender-orientation, race, political ideology, or anything some people think is important. You put on the uniform, and you go someplace like Afghanistan, you become a target. And that simply, what a lot of folks think is important doesn’t matter anymore. It’s who and what you stand for.
I’ve said it before, war is the great equalizer.
So, why do we raise our hand, swear to defend our country, put on the uniform, and do the job?
For some of us, the answer was easy. We had a family to provide for, few prospects, and the bank was taking away everything we owned. For others it’s as simple as it’s a family tradition. Dad or Mom did it, grandparents did it, and now it’s my turn. Others looked at it as a stepping stone to a better life, and still others because they felt the call. Still others because it’s what we do as a citizen.
And maybe that was the answer to my question of the dead. The American fighting man and woman did the very best they could. We never went anywhere to conquer anything. Since World War I we tended to give back or allow the people there to determine their own fates. Some of those people formed their own countries, others elected to become part of ours.
The truth was, if we’d wanted to have been conquerors, we would have been. We’d have killed every living man, woman, and child we came across. We would have eradicated the Afghani people like one would a weed if that was our intent.
Life is sacred to us. Religion is sacred to us. Opinion is sacred. The right to determine our own fates rather than have them imposed is important.
The American fighting man or woman has given wonderful gifts of self determination to people across the globe. We introduced them to an idea that they might become bigger than they are.
A lot of countries have made the idea work. Other’s haven’t.
We went to Afghanistan, did our best to turn them into a country that could stand on their own. Rather than a haven for terrorists that would harm others, I think most of us wanted them to become a country that they could be proud of. We told them we’d give them the tools, leave, and let them determine their own fate.
We did, and they did.
At the end of the day, it’s what the one who received the gift did with it. And if they tossed it aside, then it’s on them, not us.
And there was one other thing I felt, and that was anger. I agree with so many that we didn’t have much of an exit plan. I knew the Taliban would gloat. And If I were in charge, the minute our last guy was out, B-52s would have turned the airport into one big hole in the ground and our fighters and attack craft would have pumped a couple of cannon shells into anything sand colored. Cruise missiles would have taken anything we built and blown it to bits. And the last thing dropped would have been a note that said, “We’re going away now to make nice. Don’t mess with us. And oh, Good luck. You’ll need it.”
But maybe that’s why you’re not in charge, I thought. What are you doing? They hurt the pride you have in your country and you want to strike back.
We’re big enough to take an insult or two. Let the Taliban do and say whatever they wish. Like the Third Reich, they’ll one day be nothing but a historical fact.
But as long as we have men and women who believe what we have is worth fighting for, even if it takes a thousand years, we will prevail.
So pray for the our Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, and Marines . Because of a supposed black eye, their jobs just got harder. They have never let us down. What they do is nothing less than heroic.
Let’s not let them down.
In the meantime, I will pray for those who resist the Taliban. I will pray that God shows the Taliban they’re wrong and they become a people of peace and we can look at Afghanistan not as a rogue nation, but as friends.
I will fly my flag a little higher, and be there for those who served in that war.
I will remember 9/11 and know they were avenged.
And I will take comfort in knowing that if someone ever came around doing what happened on that day again (and they will), men and women will once again raise their hand, put on the uniform, and go do what has to be done.
I took one last look at the graveyard and thought to myself, rest easy, boys and girls. I hope we remain worthy of your sweat and blood.
I’ll see you guys at the party one day.