Medal of Honor recipients are recognized for their actions in combat, but few of us, if any, are in favor of war. I know I'm not.
The Medal of Honor reinforces certain fundamental beliefs in the values of our country. I believe that this includes the responsibility of our civilian and military leadership to do whatever it takes to avoid having our young men and women unnecessarily sacrifice their lives in a foreign land.
Another is that we, as Americans, should be able to count on our leaders to not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Yet here we are.
A frenzied exit from a long and costly war. Images of friends who are clinging vainly for a chance to come to America, only to be turned away. Images of the airport in Kabul that harken back to images of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1975.
The fear is inevitable I suppose, but what worries me the most now is that our country not lapse into old ways of thinking. We must not confuse the war with the warrior. Nor should we punish our service members for the failures of leadership.
The way that America treated service members returning from Vietnam a half century ago was disgraceful. And the suicide rate of our veterans since then has outpaced the rate of those who never served, and it has only increased among veterans of the War on Terror.
The men and women who have been bravely fighting to protect our country from terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, were asked to do a job. They did it, and they did it well. They are heroes whom we must thank and embrace.
What can you do to ensure their safety now that they have returned home? Continue to show your appreciation for their service and be on guard.
If you have friends or relatives that are isolating, using excessive drugs or alcohol, or having difficulty in a relationship, be mindful of what they are going through. You may have to apply tough love or bring them to a crisis center. The Veterans Administration has outstanding treatment facilities as does the private sector.
Regardless of how we feel about the decisions of our leaders to put American service members in harm’s way or the absence of a solid exit plan, let’s not let our brave men and women in uniform become statistics.