Sometimes things happen that demand a response. Such was the case recently when William Arkin, a columnist for the Washington Post, wrote an article entitled, "The Troops Also Need to Support the American People." When I heard about it, I went to the Internet to check it out and I was stunned by what I read. I haven't seen such hate for the military since Vietnam.
In the article, Arkin was responding to an NBC report where several American soldiers expressed frustration at the negative press the war is receiving at home. Those interviewed supported the war, and talked freely about it. In responding to the story, Arkin made it clear that he believes our troops should keep their mouths shut and not comment about those who criticize the war. He says our soldiers are "young and naive" and their commanders should "take them aside and explain that they have no business disapproving of the American people." When he uses the term, "American people," I presume he is referring to himself and other left-wing journalists. There are lots of American people out there, and most of us are not offended when our soldiers support a war they have pledged their lives to fight.
Arkin goes on to call our all-volunteer military people "mercenaries" who fight only for pay. He hates this country, and it is beyond him to understand that other people might actually join the armed forces out of patriotism and a righteous desire to defend the nation. Concepts like honor, duty, and self-sacrifice are foreign to people like Arkin.
The man implies that our soldiers might have things too good. He says we provide our soldiers with a "decent wage, housing and medical care, and vast social support systems." We "take care of their families" and ship "obscene amenities" to the war zone for their comfort. By "obscene amenities," I assume he means cafeteria chow, a cot to sleep on, and maybe a TV for the mess hall? He ended his piece by saying that, "America needs to ponder what it is we owe those in uniform," the inference being, that we give them more than they deserve. This guy should write speeches for John Kerry.
What do we owe those in uniform? First of all, we owe them our respect and our undying gratitude. They are volunteers who pledge their very lives to defend us. They are the best, brightest, and bravest of our young men and women. They selflessly commit to face the horrors of war so that we at home don't have to.
We owe them the same rights they fight to defend. Military discipline doesn't trump the first amendment, or any of the others. There are high standards of military conduct, to be sure, but soldiers have the same rights as you and I.
We owe the military our full support. Congressional resolutions condemning the war give aid and comfort to our enemy and fit the legal definition of treason. Can you even imagine an anti-war resolution happening during World War II? How far have we digressed as a nation? And to claim to support the troops while passing resolutions that hurt the war effort is blatant hypocrisy. Let those who "voted for the war before they voted against it," stand up and vote to bring the troops home tomorrow if they really believe it should be done. If they don't have the guts to do that, offer a better plan, or shut up and sit down.
We owe our soldiers a living wage and a decent benefit package. Some military benefits are not as good as they used to be. Soldiers must pay for part of their family's medical care now. We owe soldiers a good retirement plan and lifetime medical support. It's the least we can do for people who pledge their lives and careers to defend us.
We owe a fallen soldier's family the same concern and support offered to those who were victims of 9-11. Utah recently passed a bill to give free college tuition to the families of fallen soldiers. It is a good step in the right direction.
And so, Mr. Arkin is right. It is time for us to ponder what we owe those in uniform. I think we owe them more than what Arkin and the new political majority in congress is giving them.