This is something that has been on my mind for a while, but I’ve struggled to find a way to say it without being whiney, nostalgic, entitled. I’ve decided to say it anyway.
I saw this earlier in the week shared on Facebook by a website I follow. The caption, much more than the image, resonated with me:
I came across this poster on the D Day remembrance site and fell in instant-love. Let’s all take a little time to remember how our entire country pulled together to make our world a much better and safer place.
It’s hard to fathom a time when war belong to the whole country. That had to be scary. The words “World War” feel weighty when I stop to think about what they really mean. Daily people were inundated with the war: the draft, rationing, victory gardens, pervasive fear.
Nowadays, you don’t have to give war a second though.
That’s not a good thing. Never mind the political power we give up when we turn a blind eye to current events, but we are burdening our military by abandoning them to fight the war and additional homefront battles alone. Government shutdown, sequestration? Eh, whatever. Cut military benefits that were promised to them when they signed on the dotted line? Fine, they have it better than their civilian counterparts you know. Force reduction? Well, we have to do something to fix the budget.
It’s not that I think military spending is untouchable. On the contrary! Interestingly, the idea I like best of reducing the number of generals seems to get very little traction. Your average military family, however, makes for an easy target. Congressmen fight tooth and nail to protect pet projects in their districts because their constituents would be up in arms and thus their chances for election would be in jeopardy. The military makes up 1% of the population spread out all across the country. Who is accountable to us? Who can we threaten with our votes?
Instead of anyone standing up for us on our behalf when it comes to these issues, we get faux support in the form of Facebook likes. I’m not completely against so-called slacktivism. I think there’s a place for it. Facebook is good starting point when it comes to raising awareness and changing the conversation. But in terms of action, it doesn’t do squat. Sometimes those likes just make me mad. I know that if you really want to do something, really support the military, it wouldn’t take much more effort. Instead, you’re content to show off your ‘support’ with a tiny mouse click and keep on scrolling.
I know it could be worse. A generation ago Vietnam veterans, who in some cases weren’t serving by choice and in other cases served out of a profound sense of duty, were vilified. I wouldn’t want to go back to that, and I’m thankful the culture around our armed forces is nowhere near what it was then. Yet underneath the misguided vitriol aimed at soldiers, we were a country full of people who were concerned about our nation’s war and they took action. Today, we ignore the war and the struggle and the sacrifice of those still fighting it.
I remember so vividly the isolation that I felt during my husband’s first deployment. I felt different, detached from the people around me. They weren’t waking up to ‘red messages,’ e-mails detailing another death in the unit; they weren’t biting their nails to the quick waiting for a phone call, an e-mail, a signal, anything; they weren’t scared to answer the door when someone unexpected knocked.
What is the point of saying all this? What do I want? The pervasive fear of World War II? The anger of Vietnam? Of course not.
I want people to be educated. It’s easier than ever to be informed these days. You should know what countries we are in, when we are getting out, what the plan is. You should know how many people have lost their lives. You should know their names.
I want you to think before you like. What are you trying to accomplish by liking something that supposedly supports the troops? Most likely, you’re just making yourself feel good and contributing to like-farming. Just keep scrolling. Let your actions speak louder than your likes.
I want you to know that action takes less effort than you think. A simple e-mail or Facebook message (since you’re already there anyway) will make a soldier smile. Just say hi. See? Too easy. If you want to do more, these are some good ideas, and these, and these. Five minutes on Google and you could find something quick and easy. Even writing your representatives is easy these days.
I want you to realize how much your little gestures mean to the families still in the thick of it. My dad e-mails Stephen regularly. Sure, they just talk about the weather, but it’s a little bit of normalcy that they both enjoy. It’s nice to be remembered. A handful of people, close friends and not-so-close, have sent care packages. A surprise package boosts Stephen’s spirits for weeks and it gives me a break from my regular post office run. We are both grateful for the support we’ve been shown, and we take it to heart.
Maybe I’m way off base. Maybe these are just the bitter ramblings of a wife who in three years has sent her husband off to war twice. Maybe I’m so knee deep in deployment that I can’t see the forest for the trees. But I don’t want this to become another forgotten war.
I want to hear from you. What is your opinion? What has your experience been? Don’t worry about disagreeing with me – dissenters are welcome!