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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving During Wartime

Time has been so very short on this end, and it's late (or is that early?) as it is. It's time for peaceful slumbers, something I know that half a world away many of our troops are not blessed with tonight. Many on the home front are equally sleepless, missing loved ones at every toss and turn.

Before I retire for a few hours of sleep, I'd like to take the opportunity to send out my thanks to everyone who has joined with so many of us in advocating for more attention to the plight of our returning troops, and for more action in getting resources and help where it's most needed.

It's been a great honor to work with you these past two years, though I wish the work wouldn't be necessary for any of us to do. Yet, we do it because we love our country, and we love our fellow brothers and sisters serving in uniform in our name.

What follows in extended are some of the words and reflections on Thanksgiving during wartime found in today's newspapers. May you and yours be together today in safety and peace.

And for those who are far away from home, thank you for your sacrifice today and every day.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

The Denver Post [opinion, Gail Schoettler]:

Today, I'm grateful for all the Americans who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm also worried that we aren't doing all we can to thank them for their service and all too often their deaths, terrible wounds, and mental anguish.

I'm thankful for the families of American servicemen and women who endure long separations and, again all too often, the agony of caring for veterans whose lives have been radically changed by massive and irreparable injuries. This Thanksgiving, whether or not we agree with the rationale for these wars, Americans should pledge that all our armed forces will receive our thanks through the benefits and help they deserve.

Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs, has been the launching point for thousands of soldiers heading to Iraq and Afghanistan. Many Fort Carson soldiers have died and thousands more have received horrific injuries. While we read of their deaths and memorial services, we hear all too little about the lasting effects on soldiers and their families of injured brains and maimed bodies. One story in a local newspaper cannot do justice to a lifetime of care and suffering they and their families will endure.

Meanwhile, life for most of us goes on virtually uninterrupted. We don't have victory gardens or sugar rationing or even long lines at the gas station. The daily slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan has become almost commonplace, something we note but don't spend much time thinking about. We can enjoy this Thanksgiving Day, munching turkey and trimmings with family and friends, not worrying about the next roadside bomb or sniper's bullet.

But too many other Coloradans don't have that luxury. Their lives have been forever disrupted by the horrors of war. We owe them all that our country can provide to compensate for their sacrifices on our behalf.

The Boston Globe [opinion, Larry Minear]:

"AMERICANS ARE a grateful people, ever mindful of the many ways we have been blessed. On Thanksgiving Day, we lift our hearts in gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, the people we love, and the gifts of our prosperous land." Thus begins this year's Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Bush.
more stories like this

Blessings notwithstanding, the divisions within the American family seem distressingly deep this year, the lack of meaningful dialogue about our freedoms excruciating. The most evident indicator of our lack of national consensus is the wide divergence of perceptions and prescriptions regarding the war in Iraq.

The American family is also having trouble developing consensus on other key issues such as healthcare, immigration reform, and global warming. Earlier this month we celebrated the fifth consecutive Veterans Day on which American military personnel were dying in Iraq. Yet most of the day's ceremonies did little to bridge the divides in public opinion regarding US presence and policy, strategy, and tactics.

The war is taking a staggering yet still largely unrecognized toll. A recent Globe survey found that 91 percent of the soldiers canvassed said "yes" to the question, "Were you changed as a person by the war?" ...

The politicization of compassion not only degrades the sacrifices made but also thwarts genuine dialogue on the issues of the war. Consensus-building is difficult when the president offers citizens and the wider world the choice only of being "for us or against us." Congressional "debates" are equally unreal.

Lost in this dialogue of the deaf are voices of veterans who have paid their dues in Iraq and Afghanistan. In keeping with US military tradition, most have not allowed political views to undercut their service on the front lines. "President Bush is my commander-in-chief," says one member of the Mississippi National Guard. "As long as I'm in the army, whatever he says goes."

Yet upon returning home, many express strong opinions about their experience and the nature and shape of American involvement. Divided in their views, many still join in expressing a common longing that the American people engage more deeply in the issues of the war.

A member of the Utah National Guard, writing home to friends in the United States at the conclusion of a year in Ramadi, offered a sentiment with the potential to spark the missing national dialogue.

Speaking of his fellow military personnel in Iraq, First Lieutenant Lee Kelley wrote, "We're not all walking idealist cliches who think your ability to work where you want and vote and associate with whom you want are hinged completely on our deployment to Iraq. But you know what? Our work here is part of a collective effort through the ages that has granted you those things. So don't forget about us, because we can't forget you."

The MSU Reflector [opinion, Stephen Tillotson]:

Thanksgiving seems to be a truly American holiday because it celebrates the bountiful supply of food and resources for which our country is known. These things helped build and sustain the United States from its first days and its first wars so that this country could be as great as it is today.

Inevitably, this type of discussion leads to a patriotic mention of America's troops who are fighting to protect our country and ensure the many freedoms we enjoy. You might be thinking that Veterans' Day was only about a week ago and all this patriotism is getting a bit redundant. Well, in a recent news report I read, at least 28,500 troops have been wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Numbers are often unimpressive, but when I realize my hometown has a population of about 30,000, that number of wounded troops carries much more weight.

If you think about it, these wounded soldiers have to endure rehabilitation and surgeries just to gain some sense of normalcy. Many of these soldiers will have disfigured faces or amputated limbs.

Some may have a permanent limp while others may have to use a wheelchair. Trying to have a normal, productive life while having to deal with such physical obstacles is not easy, no matter what people say. Recovering from a bomb attack that blows off a leg or an arm is hard enough, but not being able to work because of it is even harder.

Not every wounded soldier is prevented from working, but even those soldiers who can work may have to pay extra medical bills while supporting a family. There is no reason our soldiers should have to struggle financially because they decided to fight for their country.

We try to put hero labels on all of these men and women who put their lives on the line for American and we forget that they have everyday lives and families to worry about. There are so many political arguments about the war in Iraq thrown all over television, but I seldom hear the bravery and sacrifice of our soldiers being mentioned. These politicians in their crisp suits tend to forget that there would be no war without soldiers to fight it.

So if you're a politician or a mailman or a college student at Mississippi State, remember our troops at Thanksgiving. Be thankful that there are men and women who care enough about their country to fight for it.

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