That is how long the audience at a recent Nationals game acknowledged the wounded from Walter Reed that were in the audience, according to the Washington Post. Sixty three seconds. One whole minute. That is the extent of the “thanks of a grateful nation.: “thanks for your service” in the grocery store, which usually embarrasses the service member; or the ubiquitous yellow ribbon magnet on the back of the car and poof, that’s probably the extent of the troop support that the military sees in this time of budget cuts and unemployment.
Troops often question why more have not answered the call to duty and why their sacrifices are so poorly understood by the people they serve.
For most Americans, the wars remain an abstraction,then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last year. “A distant, unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally.”
Distant unpleasant series of news items . Those news items are not distant to me. One of those news items was my friend M’s husband who lost his lower leg to an IED in Afghanistan; one of those news items was the KIA notification of two young men from another friend’s unit; a few years ago, nine of those news items were those of the young men whose funerals I attended.
Those news items make me run to the map I have up to figure out how far that incident, that action may have been from where my husband is currently stationed. That gut check is common to all of us who are in deployment mode.
I was talking to a civilian friend about the article while we cleaned the cages at the cat shelter and she said something that gave me pause at first. She asked why I was so surprised by the article, by the seeming lack of compassion by civilians. My initial reaction was “Are you kidding?” We are AT WAR; people are DYING and being WOUNDED! But as she reminded me, the attention span of most people is the latest tweet they read, or the 30 second headline news “story”.
We’ve all heard about compassion fatigue, the news is always bad and we become immune to it, we can look at the pictures of dying children or wounded soldiers without flinching. But thank goodness, there are still people who will change the channel when the ASPCA commercials come on, who weep when they see the pictures of children in refugee camps and send money to charities; these are the men and women who volunteer at the local VA hospital, the USO and pack care packages for Operation Gratitude.
In this same article, a great deal of print space is devoted to the latest commercial from Budweiser devoted to a returning servicemember – now I have a HUGE problem with this. I detest this type of “reunion porn” and what I see as exploitation, knee jerk reaction used for monetary gain. The person who wrote this commercial came up with the idea after witnessing a reunion in an airport. Here’s a little fact that almost surprised me.
Five days after President Obama announced his plan to pull 30,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, Byrne had no idea how many troops the United States had in the country and little sense of Obamaâ€™s plan to reduce their numbers. He acknowledged that he did not know much about the war
Did not know much about the war. And that, THAT I don’t understand. When your country is at war, when the military forces that wear YOUR country’s uniform are coming home in caskets, or on stretchers and swamping the hospitals; when the Army’s suicide rate is climbing every month; or if your attention is glued to the budget battles when the cost of these wars has to be added to the budget, how do you not “know much” about one of the two wars your country is currently engaged in. But you’ll feel free to use that story to sell lousy beer.
The final part of this piece in the Post is the most heartbreaking A wounded soldier who has gone back to college, who is seeing this disconnection first hand. A meeting held by a group of veterans in the school” was designed to give students who knew little of the military or the wars a sense of what life was like for deployed service members. It provoked a genuine exchange, more than 10 seconds, more than 60 seconds, more than 63 seconds, between the former service members and the student body.” The reactions of the studentsÂ are mystifying to me .
I don’t think I realized that the soldiers over there were in that much danger, said [a student], who like many students was opposed to the war. I didn’t understand the magnitude of risks that they were taking.
A young person who is at an institution like Georgetown didn’t understand, didn’t realize? This is a smart person, an educated person. Obviously, more education is necessary ; obviously more understanding is needed of the reality of 10 years of war.
You may not agree with war, you may not agree with why we are fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, but isn’t it important to know, learn, understand?