"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans matter

Like the fact that God matters, the fact that veterans matter is known to most people whose behavior indicates that they actually don't believe it matters very much. On this Veteran's Day I want to explain briefly why they should believe it matters very much.

Veterans include not merely the many who have given their lives serving and protecting the rest of us, but those who have come home to varying degrees of success or failure. Many veterans come home to live reasonably productive lives; but the percentage of homeless, mentally ill, and substance abusers who are veterans is substantially higher than the percentage of veterans in the general population. It's no secret why: the experience of lethal combat leaves many psychically scarred for life, just as many others are also physically damaged for life. The psychic scars are only exacerbated by how a lot of veterans are treated once home. That includes a good number of justly decorated veterans. If you do nothing else today, see this three-part video about "The Marlboro Marine" whose photo memorialized the retaking of Fallujah.

Both our dead veterans and our scarred-for-life veterans remind us that freedom is not free. But they should also remind us that all those who pay a high price for others deserve our utmost respect and love: hard-working parents; spouses who remain faithful in the most trying circumstances; those who truly care for the elderly or infirm under their care; clergy in it for service rather than a salary; police and other "first responders"; good teachers; indeed all those who put the welfare of others ahead of their own. Our society is not good at tendering respect and love to such people. Out default cultural stance is to admire the rich and famous for being that, while we take the true heroes for granted. A society like that cannot long survive, and will make the sacrifices of its veterans vain.
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