Soldiers are People, Too

I had a good dose of reality the other night. I went to a Family Readiness Briefing with our oldest son, Matt. His brigade is being deployed soon and so the National Guard arranged a meeting to inform and support the soldiers and families as they prepare.

As I looked around the auditorium, I saw the faces of young men and women, parents, wives, children and siblings. I saw families, couples, and singles. I saw…people. Real, live people.

The last time Matt was deployed my husband, Mark, and I encountered a number of occasions in which we were used as political sounding boards for those who oppose the war in the Middle East or who loathe the military. It seems that they felt as though we were somehow to blame, or were fiendishly contributing to the problem. Perhaps they thought that reaming us out would effect some miraculous change. Did they think that venting to military personnel or their families would further their anti-war cause?

Somehow folks have it in mind that those of us who belong to, or have a loved one in the military, are war-mongering radicals. So, they vent their frustrations on anyone remotely involved in the armed forces. As a soldier, I’m sure Matt’s received even worse treatment.

I respect their opinions and understand their frustrations. In fact, I’m frustrated, too. Matt’s frustrated. Our family and friends are frustrated. Do we want to be separated from Matt? Of course not! Do we want Matt’s life to be endangered 24-7 for the next year? Of course not! Nor do we want any other family separated or any other soldier endangered. But, military personnel and their families are called to serve, and it’s a noble calling.

Consider what Bishop Fulton Sheen once said about military service: “The great French preacher Lacordaire once said the vocation of a soldier is next in dignity to the priesthood, not only because it commissioned him to defend justice on the field of battle and order on the field of peace, but also because it called him to the spirit and intention of sacrifice.”

Or the Great John Paul II: “But where did they find the strength necessary to do their duty to the full, other than in total adherence to the professed ideals? Many of them believed in Christ, and his words illumined their existence and gave an exemplary value to their sacrifice.”

I’m also sure that Mark and I will be snagged as venting posts again and again over the course of the coming year and a half. Each time, I’ll have to keep in mind that they vent because they’re well-meaning but ignorant.

armyprayer.jpgSoldiers and their families do not cause war. In fact, I’ll bet you my entire estate that, if you ask every single soldier or commanding officer in any of the seven branches of our US military, not a single one will say that he/she actually wants to engage in battle. Not one of them will tell you that they want to be separated from their loved ones for months — sometimes a whole year — at a time. Not one of them will tell you that they want to see death and destruction. Not one of them will tell you that they get a thrill out of firing their weapon. Not one.

They will, however, tell you that they want to serve their country. They will tell you that the military is a particular calling. They will tell you that they want to be peacekeepers and guardians of freedom. They will tell you that soldiers do more than just fight: they protect vital supply shipments, rescue families from torture and destruction, and bring hope to the hopeless. They will tell you that, although the cost in terms of hardship and heartbreak is incomprehensible, they’re willing to make that sacrifice.

They don’t want this war, but they’ll serve to the best of their ability. And for that, they deserve our respect, support, love, and prayers. Soldiers are people, too.

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  • faz643

    My youngest son left for boot camp last week. He joined the National Guard both as an opportunity for higher education and to be able to do something meaningful with his life. I miss him and I worry about him but I also fully support him in his choice to serve. I appreciate this article both as a person who grew up in a military family and as a mom whose son is carrying on in my father’s foot steps.

    I ask that each of you reading this remember all the members of the military and their families in your daily prayers. My son will be able to come home over Christmas but for many families this year, this will not be the case. Let us remember their needs during this season of Advent.

  • kirbys

    GOd bless both of your sons! My dad, brothers and I were all in the military at some point, and my brother is still over there now. Very good points, Marge!

  • Warren Jewell

    Of those who choose to stand between Mom, home and apple pie, and all that America means, and impending enemies and devastation, how can any hold these worthies as less than the best kinds of persons?

    The only kind of ‘welfare’ I recognize as fully demanded of me and all citizens are the benefits we give our soldiers, sailors, firefighters and police to their family needs while they serve, and too often give their very all in their service, and as grateful extra support, in family and education, after they come back home to us.

    However they individually acquire it, these folks are ‘educated’ – born and raised – to be among the best to give their best.

    God bless our warrors, whatever they fight to serve and protect the rest of us. God blass their families, who raised “these best kinds of persons”.

  • crossedcrowns

    I am very grateful for your sacrifice of being a mother of a soldier, and also for your son’s service to his country. My father was in the Air National Guard for 40 years. He is convinced, however, that President Bush and this war are both evil. I am very sorry that people try to vent their frustrations on you. I got a whiff of such behavior after the 2004 elections- somehow everything was my fault, by association.

    Your son battles on the field for us. Thank you for battling it out here at home.

  • Thank you for this article!!!

    My husband is retired Army (20 years) and is currently serving in Iraq… for the second time as a civilian. (He will have spent 24 out of 27 months there by the time he’s done.) My oldest son is a soldier who spent 15 months in Iraq and has only been home a year. My second son is going to enlist in the Army right after Christmas this year. I completely relate to the experiences and feelings expressed here. Thank you for articulating them.

    God bless your family and all of our military service members and their families!

  • Piper

    I have one friend with one son in the marines and one son in seminary. I think I just now realized, after reading this article, the extent of the awesome sacrifices this family has made.

    May God continue to bless all families with sons and daughters in military and religious life.