today is veterans day. in america, this is a day off for some, but not all. there are giveaways at chain restaurants and sales at furniture stores. lots of people make lots of noise, and i'm sure it's very sincerely meant. (not being sarcastic, for once, either.) politicians do photo ops, grandstanding in front of people wearing camo and old men in ball caps embroidered with the names of their ships.
but honestly, how many people really take the time to think about what it means to be a veteran, especially in the modern sense of the word? military service used to be essentially compulsory for young men, and most people called just went and did what was asked. but the nature of service changed when the draft ended. our armed forces are 100% volunteer these days. that changes things somewhat, to say the least. now the people who defend us at home and abroad do so out of conscious choice. that's really a special thing to do, even if it's only done because someone feels he or she has run out of options for the future.
and in spite of this regime of service by choice, which should force the decision-makers to be all the more careful with people who have opted in, our leaders have made increasingly cavalier choices as to where and how to use our soldiers, sailors and marines. life is not a game of risk. these people are real flesh and blood. and increasingly, troops come back from war... changed. not like war hasn't always been hell. far from it; war has always been horrific. but in the past, it seems to me anyway, war was only entered as a last resort or to fight a clear, definite evil. we entered combat soberly, reluctantly, and with a sense of what we were doing. i don't get that sense anymore.
as i've said before, it is my humble opinion that if we are going to send people who have chosen this life into harm's way, it had damn well better be done with the utmost sense of necessity and purpose. if we can't look at ourselves and say, UNEQUIVOCALLY, "this is worth spilling our soldiers' blood over," we have done our forces a disservice. and that is inexcusable. combat changes people. that's unavoidable. if we're going to subject people to that kind of change, we'd better have a good reason. i am against a lot of these wars we've entered in the last decade, and it's because i really, honestly feel that the people who wanted these wars have treated - and continue to treat - our troops like life-size GI joe dolls. that's completely reprehensible. our troops deserve better.
so on this veterans day, i remember the sacrifice of those who are gone. i honor the service of those who chose to fight for us, past, present and future. i love my friends and family who wear the uniform, and i value their brothers and sisters in arms. i choose to commemorate this day by giving to iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, an amazing group designed to serve my generation's veterans and current members. do the same. and by god, make sure you recognize what those who serve have done for us, and continue to do for us.
thank you. all of you.