Fighting for the Lives of Veterans

I hear the war drums beating. Each news story seems to reverberate their pounding, bringing us one step closer to inevitable violence. Our posture toward each other, toward other nations, and other religions seems to be falling into step as the language of potential war starts slipping into our dialogue. Violence starts with words… but it ends with fists, bombs, and death.

Can you hear them? Can you feel the tension stretched tight? Eyes are locked, fists are up. Each country waiting to see who will twitch first.

We’ll say we had no choice, that we were forced to respond. But the truth is, we do have a choice. The human costs and results of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the Iraq War are a reminder to pause. To stop and remember that whole and beautiful lives hang in the balance of the decisions we make.

Let’s take a minute and remember the scars left by those wars—the ones that will be worn by our soldiers forever. Whether mental or physical, those marks will be with them at their son’s little league game, as they walk their daughters down the aisle, and as they go to sleep at night.

Veteran’s lives should be honored and protected, rather than being spent on knee-jerk reactions to fears and conflicts. The men and women in our military are more than a fighting force or a valuable asset. They are our brothers, sisters, and neighbors.

Let’s refuse to spend their lives easily on a twisted carousel of wars.

We must be so pro-life that we refuse to offer up our soldiers as our first solution or see violence as the only practical solution. Let’s beat back the lie that violence and war wounds end when soldiers return home. Because the truth is that the effects of violence linger long after the last shot has been fired and no amount of NFL soldier salutes and Wounded Warrior projects can unmake the wreckage.

Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force [public domain]

Can we really call it “ fighting for freedom” if our soldiers carry its baggage forever?

We need to fight hard to protect soldiers lives before they are broken. Broken people break people. Free people, well they free people. And isn’t America the “land of the free”? If we are, then we must start by protecting the freedom of the very people who fight to keep it so.

We must work diplomatically in order to fiercely protect lives. All of our lives, not just those at home. We need die-hard negotiations that seek to find our common ground—that thing that we all want, even if we disagree on how to get there. We must not walk away from creating a solution with the other side because of partisan politics, fear mongering or intimidation. We expect soldiers to fight for us scared, don’t they deserve the same from us?

When things seem risky, it’s tempting to believe that we only have two options: declare war or turn a blind eye towards terrorism and accept violence on our own soil.

It’s a false narrative. It’s a paper solution for a human problem.

We can and must work together. Because anyone who has walked a battlefield like I have knows that if we find ourselves there, we have already lost.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel St. Pierre, courtesy of the U.S. Army [public domain]

We must acknowledge the threat and imagine brave new solutions for our country.

There is another way. Can you see it?  A third way that says we are all in this together because our well-being is wrapped up in the well-being of others. It pushes for relentless negotiations because we have been entrusted with the lives of our soldiers and their families. It demands radical diplomacy because it recognizes that life is the price of war.

We must imagine a future where humanity—both “ours” and “theirs”—is prioritized over shock and awe wars. A future where we fight as fiercely for the lives of our soldiers and their families, as they fight for us. A future where more lives are left whole and fewer families hang flags on the wall in memorial of their loved ones.

Photo by Spc. Tyler Maulding, courtesy of the U.S. Army / CC BY-NC 2.0

Our children are counting on us to do these hard things together.

Let’s have brave friendships instead of fearful inner dialogues. Let’s build a culture where all of the “us’s” and all of the “them’s” can sit together at the same table. There’s room for all of us.

I hear the war drums beating. I hear them driving us towards violence.

And I see the 16-year-old, who, in a few short years might find himself dropped into a battlefield. Brave, bewildered, and carrying the weight of his country’s hero narrative on his young shoulders.

We ask soldiers to do everything in their power to protect our lives, will we do the same for them?

How hard will we work for his future?

How fiercely will we guard her life?

Courtney Christenson contributed to this post.