Is It Really Worth the Sacrifice?

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For a long time, I remained ignorant of the true nature of war. Inside my head there was a movie in which a soldier goes off to war, leaving his lover behind. It all seemed so romantic. It was just like the story of Pearl Harbor only no one died. And then when it was time, I would conclude the fantasy by bringing the soldier home, unscathed and perfectly ok. Of course, I didn’t understand the repercussions of something so gruesome and so violent.

There are soldiers in my family. My father’s grandfather, my father’s father, my father’s cousins, my mother’s father and so many other’s in my family tree. I guess you could call us one heck of a military family. I feel blessed that no one I love is currently on active duty, but I ache for the ones I know that are. My grandfather’s great grandfather was a soldier in the confederate army during the civil war. He once made a joke about how I have gunpowder in my veins. I didn’t understand that either.

In fact, I didn’t see the light until I watched the move Taking Chance in my ninth grade history class. I was fifteen at the time. I cried through the entire movie, aghast that that truly horrible could happen to any one person or family. Over the years, I watched that movie many times. I cry every time. It always strikes a sensitive note within me. In truth, I wish there were more forms of media portraying the real stories. Behind every active duty soldier is an active duty family enduring separation from their loved one, worry and sometimes heartache and grief. No one tells their stories. Nor does the average person know about the mindset of war.

Recently, I read a letter, written by a soldier to his family as part of my research for the novel I’m writing about the non-romantic side of war. His words were both enlightening and absolutely terrifying, as I had never been exposed to something like it. I found myself aghast that a human would even have to think or see the things that this soldier did. I also read some of his published diary entries. They are even more difficult to read. But this letter was his last letter home.

“I feel my days are numbered so I want to say all this while I still can…For me to prepare myself to take life without hesitation has been a very difficult thing to do. To take away another woman’s son, husband, man’s son, brother has always bothered me but through my eyes is understood by my god and I am forgiven. For the man that took my life more than likely for all he has known his whole life he feels the exact same way I do when he killed me. That is what scares me and I don’t think is understood by disappointingly a huge percentage of Americans.”

Cpl. Jason Bogar of Seattle was killed in a firefight at Wanat, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. He was twenty-five.

“We all want to come home, but worry about what we are coming home to. We read the papers and watch the news. It looks to us that while we are fighting for our country, our country is going down the tubes. Thousands of us have been killed and many times more wounded. God knows how many civilians have been killed and wounded. And we see these Congressmen acting like they are in kindergarten. We’re getting our behinds shot off here while they are sitting on theirs doing nothing and worrying whether or not millionaires and billionaires are going to have to pay more in taxes. Give me a break. We read that vets, maybe a hundred thousand are homeless and on the streets, can’t get jobs, getting ripped off on their education, can’t get the care they need and that even their burials are fucked up. If they don’t care about us dying or getting our arms or legs blown off, maybe they ought to consider how much this war is costing and wasting—since money and tax breaks seem to be the only important things to them. I know some feel that if we pull out now all those deaths and wounded will have been for nothing, but I don’t think adding more to the list is going to make their sacrifices any more meaningful.”

The author was severely wounded twelve days after writing this letter.

It seems that there is a severe problem in the United States. We spend too much time wallowing in the issues our politicians pay tribute to, while completely ignoring the ones that are staring us in the face. So many families have been robbed of their loved ones, and so many soldiers have been robbed of the chance to have a family of their own, or see theirs one last time. It is a truth that is the same for every war that has been fought and every war that will be fought for the world never stops fighting. Violence never stops.

For most of my life, my country has been at war. I can’t really remember a time without it. I was in kindergarten on the day that shook the planet and thousands of people died in collapsing towers. But I ask you now: is this war really necessary? Is it right to justify invasion of a foreign country based on the principles of the “white man’s burden?” Who are we to take the option of making choices away from those people? As far as the war in Afghanistan, I completely understand. That is justified. The war in Iraq, not so much. It’s just a shame that so much has been sacrificed because of a political game.

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