One thing most anti-war protesters learned from Vietnam is that Americans do not like it when those who fight wars on their behalf are disrespected. As a result, for the most part, returning heroes from Afghanistan and Iraq were spared the treatment their brothers who fought in Vietnam received. Thankfully those returning home have not been called baby killers or been spat upon by opponents of the war.
What has happened in many instances, however, is instead of making war heroes into villains, as happened during the Vietnam era, opponents (particularly of the war in Iraq) have made them into victims or they have simply ignored them.
Yesterday, on Memorial Day, Bruce McQuain at Blackfive.net pointed out what he referred to as a casual defamation. In an otherwise very positive story about Army MAJ Chris Carter who “jumped out of his Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the middle of a firefight to rescue an Iraqi woman,” the reporter referred to Carter as “an early hero in a war with few heroes.”
McQuain cited numbers to disprove the statement. “ 4 Medal of Honor recipients, probably 20 or so Airforce, Navy and Distinguished Service Cross recipients…well over 200 Silver Stars…hundreds of Bronze Stars with "V" device have been awarded.”
He said, “The problem isn't that there are few heroes in that war. The problem is that the many heroes of that war have gotten little media coverage. ..the media's lack of coverage has created a ‘conventional wisdom’ within the press that Iraq is a war with ‘few heroes’.”
Matt Burden started the popular military blog, Blackfive, in honor of his friend, Major Mathew E. Schram who was killed in Iraq on Memorial Day 2003. “Major Schram's convoy was followed by a car with a major weekly magazine reporter in it. Once the action began, the reporter and his driver turned and got the hell out of there. If it wasn't for Mat's charge up into the ambushers, they never would have made it out of there alive. The weekly magazine never ran a story about my good friend, Mat.”
Burden said he started Blackfive so that he could write about Mat, and the other Americans like him, too many in the media were ignoring. Recently Burden joined others to form the Warrior Legacy Foundation (WLF), a group “committed to the protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America’s Warriors.”
While the purpose of so many of the wonderful milblogs formed over the past decade have been to tell the stories not being told by the media, the WLF aims to foster a new respect for the American warrior, “steadfastly dedicated to the protecting the legacy and honor of ALL those who have served this great nation.”
Executive Director David Bellavia wrote, “If America only respected her warriors the way other nations who have fought us have, there would be no reason to exist at The Warrior Legacy Foundation. We spend billions of dollars on the way young children from other nations look at American servicemen and woman, but not a dime on the way young children in our own country view military service. Our purpose is simple and our goal is audacious. We will change American culture’s perception of the American veteran. Children will announce they want to serve in our nation’s military and teachers will applaud their aspirations, rather than regard them as lowering their standards. Parents need to see veterans for what they are: the best that every generation had to offer. Serving your country will be considered to be a career worthy of distinction, not a last resort for misguided youth.”
When reading that I couldn’t help but recall John Kerry’s advice to a Pasadena City College crowd to study hard and do their homework so they wouldn’t end up in Iraq. If more of the stories about the impressive work members of our armed forces have done in Iraq had been reported John Kerry might not have felt comfortable in making such a comment.
A couple of years ago I wrote that those in our armed forces don’t want pity, which is what they have been getting a good bit of over the past few years. They do not want to be portrayed as victims, because they are not victims. They want our respect and support. More important, they deserve our respect and support.
We should make sure all veterans (especially wounded warriors) and the families of the fallen are compensated financially, and that their health care needs are met, but the support I am talking about is respect and support for their commitment to serve.
On Memorial Day we honored those who gave their lives in the service of their country. We must also honor not only those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who have been awarded medals of valor, but those who serve every day, both here and abroad – many quietly and without much recognition. We must honor their dedication to service that has made it possible for this country to achieve greatness. By honoring these great Americans and their commitment to serve, we will educate future generations and ensure the tradition of proud military service continues.