Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2004

Honoring veterans shouldn’t to related to national mood

November 11, 2004

It's often reported soldiers don't fight for abstract ideals. If the testimony of most veterans is to be believed, what gets them through the most harrowing combat is not shared national treasures like freedom of speech and religion but rather loyalty on the most basic level. Their most overwhelming desire was not to let their comrades down.
With Veterans Day we can return that loyalty by honoring those among us who put on a uniform to serve their country.
Respect for veterans has ebbed and flowed with national events. Vets were held in high esteem after World War I, physically attacked by the Army during the Great Depression, acknowledged again after World War II, unfairly shared in the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, and now highly treasured by a country newly aware of its vulnerability.
But as the recent election proved, veteran stature is a complicated thing. With the country engaged anew in what promises to be an extended military conflict of still-uncertain success, attitudes could again change.
That cannot be allowed to happen. All who put on the uniform were part of a two-century-old tradition of a citizen Army -- or more correctly military -- subservient to civilian rule. They understood the ultimate authority didn't rest with the brass in the Pentagon but rather with collective will of their fellow citizens. It was one of the democratic values that helped forge the soldiers and influenced their performance. Or at least, that's our belief whatever the veterans professed motivations.
Honoring those values shouldn't be dependent on the national mood swing.

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