Forget politics of war; honor our veterans
November 11, 2011
Wars – and the reasons for fighting them – usually revolve around subjective issues.
Sometimes, conflicts are fought for “moral reasons” – World War II and the need to wipe out Adolf Hitler and his Nazi scourge upon humanity comes to mind. And then there are wars waged on political grounds, such as in Korea and Vietnam, where U.S. leaders sought to halt the so-called “domino effect” of communism.
The ideals behind the War on Terror, as it has been called, were rooted in a lot of gray moral and political territory. Was America, its leadership and its political actions partly to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks? Did the United States take action against Iraq and Saddam Hussein under false pretenses? Given our initial military successes, have we stayed in Afghanistan and Iraq for too long? Did the end justify the means?
These are questions that won’t, and can’t, be answered in this space. The historians will spend quite a few decades trying to sort out the events of the past 10 years, their causes, their effects.
Whatever your thoughts might be on America’s armed conflicts, past and present, there should be no disdain for the people involved in fighting them. That’s what today, Veterans Day, is about: a salute to the men and women who serve our country in times of war, regardless of the legitimacy of the cause.
They battle to keep us safe so that we don’t have to. They have put their lives on the line, time and time again, to protect U.S. citizens from the threat of foreign invasion or from hostile action while living and working abroad. And, rightly or wrongly, they have fought to protect U.S. interests abroad.
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American attitudes toward war and the military are somewhat like our views of the political system: Typically, we love our congressman but generally hate Congress (take a look at its overall approval rating). In similar fashion, we tend to loathe wars while holding our soldiers in the highest esteem.
That’s how it should be. No country should rush to war; it should be a last resort and fought for purely legitimate reasons. Still, we should respect those who are called upon to serve the nation during times of crisis, whether real or fabricated.
Today, Aspenites and citizens throughout the Roaring Fork Valley will get that chance. Veterans Day will be observed at 11 a.m. at the Roaring Fork Veterans Memorial on the east side of the Pitkin County Courthouse, 506 E. Main St. in Aspen. The public is invited and veterans are encouraged to attend in uniform, if possible.
An annual Veterans Day luncheon will be held at Aspen Elks Lodge No. 224 following the ceremony. Information about the events can be obtained by calling Dan Glidden at 927-4183 or Dick Merritt at 927-5178.
Today our country is largely divided on the subjects of war and domestic policy. Soldiers are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and having difficulty adjusting to tattered family and economic climates. Thousands – more than 4,400 in Iraq, more than 1,100 in Afghanistan – never got the opportunity to come home, dying in the service of their country. Nearly 35,000 more have suffered severe injuries.
The least we can do today is show up at the courthouse for a short celebration of their sacrifices, as well as the sacrifices of thousands of other veterans who served or died in other wars in the role of our protectors.