Honoring Troops at Sporting Events
You know those videos of soldiers coming home to surprise their family? They make me cry every time. Teenagers at graduation, little kids in school, the whole family at a sporting event, their dogs - doesn’t matter. Every time. And I never don’t watch them if someone posts a link. At home. At work. Can’t stop. Something in my eye. Fake yawn. Avoid eye contact. I’ve had to employ them all.

I was thinking of a new, maybe better, way to bring soldiers’ families joy. These kids, these spouses, these dogs obviously love their soldiers, which is why they break down and why we break down watching these videos. So how about this, instead of sending these people overseas for months at a time - and then sending them again and again - how about we just keep them at home? If we really gave a crap about these soldiers we would simply bring them home. Stop putting them and their families through the pain of having to be apart for who knows what at this point. There are times when it’s necessary. I’ve supported war - and the breaking up of families that it entails - when I thought it was necessary. But let’s be honest, is what we’re doing in Afghanistan right now necessary? Is it the best use of these brave men and women?

I don’t think I would have really understood how awful these videos are before I had kids. But now the thought of missing months of my kids’ lives is heart breaking to me. It’s different, I’m sure, because to put yourself in mortal danger means you must care about your mission more than anything I’ve ever cared about. So in that respect maybe it’s easier for these soldiers to leave their families for months on end, but as a parent and a husband and a son and a brother and a friend, I bet it’s not much easier.

At the State of the Union address President Obama called on Sgt. Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was involved in a roadside bombing while on his 10th tour in Afghanistan. He was partially paralyzed and brain damaged. The audience gave him a long ovation in honor of his tremendous service. As James Fallows at The Atlantic has pointed out, it seems everyone missed the point.
The moment was powerful human and political drama; it reflected deserved credit and gratitude on Remsburg and his family; and as I wrote earlier today, I think it was entirely sincere on the president's part, as a similar tribute would have been from his predecessor George W. Bush. With the significant difference that Bush initiated the wars these men and women have fought in, and Obama has been winding them down. And so the most favorable reading of the moment, as John Cassidy has argued, is that the president was trying to dramatize to the rest of the government the human cost of the open-ended wars many of them have egged on.

But I don't think that's how it came across to most of the Congress, or was processed by the commentariat. This was not presented as a "never again" moment; it was a "this is America's finest!" moment—which Cory Remsburg himself, and with his family, certainly is. (Also see Peter Beinart on this point.) For America as a whole, the episode did not show us at our finest. In the earlier item, I tried to explain why these few minutes will reflect badly on us and our times when our children's children view them years from now. Since the explanation was buried at the end of a long post, I repeat it at the end of this one.
I would like to believe that a sliver of pre-2008 Barack Obama was trying to show what our foreign policy has wrought. If not, then I’ll say it. Look what our foreign policy has done to this man. This man went on 10 tours of service (or whatever the proper terminology is) for our country. Did no one, while rightly cheering this man’s bravery and dedication, think to boo the policy that did this to him? My god, man, ten deployments. I don’t claim to be anti-every war. I supported the war in Afghanistan at the outset, but what are we doing there now?

Instead of cheering these soldiers at football games how about we bring them home.

Fallows started his thoughts here while his readers chimed in as well.

Fallows link via Balloon Juice.
<p>Well said Jeff. On a very minor point, I’d like to rectify a conclusion that you drew. Understandably, you stated, “to put yourself in mortal danger means you must care about your mission more than anything I’ve ever cared about (e.g. your family)”. The concept of having a “mission you can believe in” is the ideal scenario and definitely lightens the burden of leaving your family. Our grandfathers fighting in WWII for such a worthy cause offers a prime example of a just war of that scale (some smaller conflicts or missions were/are certainly just as worthy [e.g. SF and Intel’s hunt for Joseph Kony/LRA]). Unfortunately, we don’t have the “luxury” of fighting only for causes that we think are just. So why, then, do we do it? Why do men and women in uniform continually leave their families and friends and loved ones? I’ll answer honestly (and subjectively)...</p>

<p>Number 1) Pride. Our nation is proud. Our military is proud. And our country asked something of our military, and our military gave its word to defend it. Our word means something. Does pride sometimes get in the way? Absolutely it does. </p>

<p>Number 2) This one is actually more important...it’s not always about the mission. Check that, most times, it has nothing to do with the mission. It’s about your brothers and sisters that are in it with you, and not leaving them behind or shorthanded, or giving up on them. Crisis forms bonds. Everyone wants to come home, but everyone has to do their part to make that happen and protect each other. It’s about the man next to you. Ask veterans from WWII up to present day and they will tell you the same exact thing. It’s not about the mission or the politics.</p>

<p>However, I’ll admit, what you say does bear some truth...at some point we tell ourselves we have to believe in the mission...even a little. It’s a defense mechanism. Because if we do not believe that, well...our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandfathers...they died for nothing. They are crippled for nothing. And that is just too much to bear. Sometimes it is inevitable, you are given a shitty mission. However, when it comes down to it (whether you have the courage to stand up and say something or not) the military does have a say in the method in which that mission is executed, even at lower levels though they don’t like to admit it (it’s hard to swim against the tide). But if you carry out orders with honor and integrity, which sometimes means questioning your orders (at the appropriate time, of course), you can return home morally intact. </p>

<p>As to bringing our troops home, sure, I could get on board with that. But I would not count on that. History teaches me otherwise. More accurately, I could get on board with exhausting all of our countries Instruments of power first (Diplomacy, Economic, Informational) for our worthy causes, and then leverage them again as soon as the battle is won instead of relying on the military to execute all of them single handedly for 10 years. But alas, our military will play the Statesman, the Politician, the School builder, the Consultant, and the Police if that is the mission.</p>

<p>It would be wise if our country understood that starting a fight or getting involved militarily over every inconvenience makes us a target. If we must protect every interest, respond to every slight, we should understand the consequences of those actions. And, be prepare when people fight back...when we least expect it. That is the environment we have created.</p>

<p>To advocate this understanding of consequences, I say, instead of cheering these soldiers at football games, do not say a word. Give them a 5 second moment of silence, think hard about being in their shoes, and just nod that you understand. It is okay if it’s only a little. That little bit makes a big difference.</p>

<p>Just a humble (slightly jaded) mans opinion. Keep writing bud.

Posted at 3/12/2014 10:35:15 AM by Brian Mihalko

"to put yourself in mortal danger means you must care about your mission more than anything..."

I think I stated this poorly, because it reads like I mean the specific mission (e.g. Afghanistan, Korea, where ever). What I actually meant was something closer to what you said. This "mission" I thought meant so much to these people is serving the country. Of the people I know who have served, no one joined for a specific cause (as far as I know), but several joined because they wanted to serve.

It is up to the electorate and its representatives to make sure the mission is just, and if it's just make sure it is the proper use of our resources (the men and women who serve).

I like this proposal:

"To advocate this understanding of consequences, I say, instead of cheering these soldiers at football games, do not say a word. Give them a 5 second moment of silence, think hard about being in their shoes, and just nod that you understand. It is okay if it’s only a little. That little bit makes a big difference."

I think it would be so much more profound. The cheering, if you think about it, kind of bleeds into the football game. Honor the troops, everyone cheers, they're PUMPED UP, then opening kickoff, you're rooting for your team...you barely notice the change from honoring to watching. If people went from a moment of silence to the football game the distinction would be stark. It might even be uncomfortable for a few minutes. And during that time I think people would really have to think about the sacrifice being made by these people.

Thanks for reading, thanks for the comment, and thanks for serving.

Posted at 3/12/2014 12:04:36 PM by Jeff Egnaczyk

I was at a college basketball game this past weekend. And they honored two Marines at the game who had both done THREE CONSECUTIVE TOURS! One in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. The entire crowd stood up and gave them both a great ovation. It was really the only defining moment that I remember from that entire game. I think its a great way to honor these guys.

Those guys had kids, and they had to go on all those tours. Tough to think about. I often think about the care that these men/women get when they return home. Dealing with injuries, PTSD, and all that goes along with being in war. I don't know if we provide enough options for our veterans as far as job security, financial, and medical care. But good post, definitely makes you think.

Posted at 3/13/2014 11:42:08 AM by Ryan

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