Replace pity with true support

Posted: Jan 12, 2007 12:01 AM

In a television interview earlier this week, actress Suzanne Sommers talked about losing her Malibu home to wildfire. She was very calm, saying that she did lose her home, but at least she didn’t lose a child in Iraq. I was expecting her to say she didn’t lose a child in the fire, so the Iraq reference caught me off guard, and that is probably why it made quite an impression on me. Sommers was rightly praised for her optimistic outlook, considering she had just lost her home and all of its contents, but the Iraq comment was what stuck with me.

I couldn’t help but wonder why she would not think the loss of her home would sufficiently pale in comparison to the death of a child lost in a fire, or an auto accident, or to a painful fatal disease. Surely there are more “children” (as her definition would include young adults) who die in car accidents every year, or from cancer, or even suicide, than have died in Iraq the past three plus years. Did the idea of losing a child in war seem worse to her?

She probably just chose that comparison because Iraq was in the news at the time. If it had been in a previous year, she might have said that at least none of her family had drowned in New Orleans. Her comment made me think though, that to some, losing a child in a war probably was viewed as a worse fate than even losing a child to murder or suicide. The value of the sacrifice made by a soldier dying in battle is something that I can’t help but recognize and respect. Those who see such a death as pointless have a view of the military I find difficult to understand.

While I have great sympathy for the loved ones of fallen soldiers, it seems that for many on the Left their “support” of the troops is expressed as sympathy for anyone in the military. Some lament that our soldiers (or kids as they often refer to them) have been sent to fight an unjust war by an idiot President who decided to invade Iraq to line the pockets of his rich oil buddies. To those people, the troops are seen as victims to be pitied. After all, they were just trying to escape the less fortunate half of John Edwards' two Americas, seeing the military as a last ditch resort to get a free education and job training.

I have been married to a Marine Corps veteran for the past 15 years, and I am confident in saying that sympathy is not what those in the U.S. armed forces want. They want the support and the respect of those they risk life and limb to protect. If they get spat upon, or accused of being terrorists or torturers instead, they do their jobs anyway. It makes the job easier though when they know the support and respect is there, and it is impossible to properly respect those in our military without acknowledging the work they are doing and the value of the sacrifices they are making.

We frequently hear even major opponents of the war say they "support the troops." What we rarely ever hear, though, is much about what the troops have done right in Iraq. I would love to hear anyone who disagrees with me on this one list of a dozen U.S. military accomplishments in Iraq that the average American could name. To say that things have not gone as hoped in Iraq is an incredible understatement, but that does not mean there have not been significant accomplishments made in the face of great difficulty.

In a blogger conference call prior to the President’s speech on Wednesday, I asked Tony Snow if the President would be talking about some of the accomplishments of our troops in Iraq that have not received much media coverage. He said that although that would not be part of Wednesday’s address, the President would be talking more about it in upcoming weeks.

The troops appear poised to receive new support in Iraq in the form of a new plan and additional boots on the ground. My hope is that they will also begin to receive additional respect as the American people eventually hear much more about not only how many schools and hospitals have been built by our military in Iraq, but also how many bad guys have been killed, how many terrorist plots have been disrupted, and how many steps have been achieved that could make it possible for Iraq to become a functioning democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

If you want to support the troops, then spare them the pity. Instead show them some respect and acknowledge their incredible work over the past four years.