Godspeed Fine Soldiers

Last week in his address to the nation, President George W. Bush suggested that Americans write letters thanking our military. With Independence Day upon us, I think that’s a good idea, and I accept the assignment.

Dear Service Members, thanks! You take the missions you’re given and you carry them out. Even if you’re not on the front lines, you are the support that projects the cutting edge of our military sword forward when drawn. Thanks.

For those who once served and have since left the military, thank you. Maintaining a military in peace makes it possible to deploy the military in war. You, too, played a part. Thanks to all of you.

Among the hardest jobs in the world is the infantry; even in training it’s physically hard. Long hours and fatigue wear on the mind, so it’s mentally hard, too. When our soldiers train, they “play” army by carrying 60 pounds on their backs for 20 miles. Then they get to dig a hole to sleep in. It’s downright painful.

And that’s before the real shooting starts. In real war, they actually have small wads of metal flying at them at incredible speeds. They even have huge chunks flying at them. Some times they get in the way. I really wish it didn’t have to be that way. I wish there were no war. I pray for your safety. Thank you.

You did your duties regardless of the causes of our wars. From the Revolution through today, the basis for each war has been debated. Some agreed with the necessity, others did not. Regardless, you and your families suffered the distress of war most directly. You deserve our heartfelt thanks for being there when our commanders-in-chief gave the orders. Thank you.

Our nation needs a military exactly like that. In a democracy, the armed forces should be at the command of an elected civilian and by extension at the service of the people. Whether we agree with our president or not, he’s our representative. When he sends you, we send you. You are OUR soldiers and sailors playing an important role in the military machine that backs up our democracy. Thank you.

Once again we have our armed forces deployed in a real shooting war. It’s being debated in Congress, among civilians and in the papers, but to you that doesn’t matter.

When the president says, “Go,” you go. When he says “Stop,” you stop. When he says, “Play a precarious peacekeeping role in a dangerous place,” by golly, you do that, too. War is sometimes a necessary evil, and you suffer through it when we the people, through our president, send you. It’s been that way for 229 years. Democracy needs a military on ready call. You are that military. Thank you.

We have you spend years of your life in foreign lands, away from home and family, and your families suffer the anxiety of hearing about daily bombings, injuries and deaths. You, our military families, deserve a nod of thanks from the nation, too. I hope and pray that our fine children, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers will come home soon. I really wish it were different. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Saying thanks is not enough for you who pay the ultimate price. You give up your hopes, thoughts and ambitions. Our country and especially your families suffer the deepest heartbreak and are left with a hole where your life once was. Everything that could have been won’t be. For you and your families, it’s a loss that lasts forever. Every hour, every minute, every second of the future are moments gone forever, never to be repaid. We owe you, but we are wholly inadequate to make good on that debt. It’s beyond our power.

Thanks is not enough, but it’s all I can offer here. May you somehow find peace with your loss. Godspeed and thank you.