Let me begin by saying, if you have never heard stories from a war veteran, gone to a military base and learned about the military, or heard stories from someone who was saved by a military member (such as a holocaust survivor), you may not understand why I am so passionate on this subject. And don’t think that I blame you, either. It wasn’t until this past April, when I went to the marine base on Parris Island, SC to see my boyfriend graduate from basic training, that I actually encountered any of these things. Which is why I, like most people I know from my generation, never understood why it is important to respect our military, and further, our country.
This is something that has bothered me for a while, but I haven’t written about it until recently, when it made the local news that a girl from my old high school refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance because she doesn’t believe in God. Now religion is a whole different subject, and I really have no views on it, other than just let people believe what they want to. However, the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t a prayer, it is a sign of respect for our nation and those who protect it. If it wasn’t for our military defending our freedom, that girl wouldn’t even have a right to choose her religious beliefs. And this is what I’m talking about when I say that there’s a lack of respect for country in our generation. But really, can you blame us? The last time that the country was really gung-ho military was early 1960s, before the Vietnam War (side note- that war reminds me so much of the ‘War on Terror’ because of the response that the country gave to it- very few people agreed with that war, just as very few agree with the current one). Since then, America has not been in a war that the whole country agreed was good and right to fight in, such as World War 2. So unlike our ancestors, our generation (as well as our parents’ generation) was raised in a time when the majority of the country disagreed in the war that we were (are) fighting, and the distinction between the President’s decisions and the military’s actions was completely lost in translation, making it seem to us that our military members were doing nothing more than adding to our country’s problems.
So let me try to set the record straight. My hope is that at least one person around my age will read this and maybe their opinion on this subject will change, at least a little. The members of our military may join for different reasons, like benefits or education, but no matter what their reasons, they all know that they may face the reality of giving up their lives for their country, and here’s why we respect them—because they are willing to do it. The press only publishes the stories about the members of our military who don’t deserve the title of U.S. Soldier, such as the ones who disrespect citizens of other countries, but never does the press highlight the high respect, bravery, and hard work that the majority of our military members show every day. Soldiers today are taking their second, third, and fourth tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them are coming back wounded or psychologically damaged due to traumatizing events, to defend our country and the people who live in it—YOU.
So next time you meet a veteran or active soldier, simply say “thank you for your service” and shake their hand. Or next time you hear the National Anthem, take your hat off as a sign of respect for the people who fight for your freedom. I’m not telling you to turn into a crazy patriot here, just know that many people have fought and died so that you can have the right to choose who you want to be, and saying thank you or showing respect for our country are small gestures that go a long way.