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Politics & Power

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At What Cost?

The holidays often bring joy and happiness but in time of war it can be difficult for many to find the spirit of the season because of loss and separation caused by events that are taking place half a world away. While many are spending this time talking about the upcoming election and the posturing of the politicians about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan maybe we should be talking about the soldiers and their families and how they must be feeling as they spend yet another holiday season apart.

For the families of deployed soldiers, especially those soldiers who have young children at home, it can be a season of intense pain hidden behind a faÁade of celebration put on to try to preserve the joy of the season for others. The burden of the season can be unbearable for some and leads some to even end their own lives. This is one of the costs of our war on terror. While it is not the only cost, it is one of the most difficult for those left behind to bear. The soldiers that signed up to serve their country also committed their families to paying the costs of their decision.

When we begin to discuss the merits or perils of war it is rarely the families left behind that dominate the discussion. People discuss the money spent on war and the innocent lives lost as well as the loss of American lives but, while it is sometimes discussed, the damage done to the lives of the families left at home is rarely given more than the occasional mention. The cost to families left behind is little more than something used to make the list of reasons against the war longer. The reality of the cost to families is something that nobody really wants to discuss because it makes the wars more personal for each and every person with a family that they love and want to spend time with. The war no longer is about nameless and faceless people. When we talk about the children spending birthdays, special days like the day they first tie their own shoes all by themselves or get their first A on a report card and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas without their fathers and mothers they become our little sons, daughters and grandchildren that we love and cherish because it is almost impossible to think of a child in pain without thinking of the children in your own life. As a father I know that I cannot see a story about an injured or distraught child without seeing my own son in the same situation and feeling a bit of the pain of the parents of the child. That discussion is too much for many to handle talking about so it gets quickly mentioned and then left in the shadow of the grander arguments about the moral righteousness of wars and whether there were or werenít sufficient reasons to invade Iraq.

So with the arrival of the holidays it seems past time to take a long hard look at the families of our nationís soldiers and ask what we can do to make the holidays happy for them. They suffer through a pain that is unbearable for many and impossible to comprehend for those who have never been forced to be separated from their loved ones by war. Politicians speak of understanding the pain of the families but for those who have never served or been the children of war it is nothing more than hollow words. They donít understand and they canít feel the pain the families feel. They know less than nothing about the loss a family feels when their brother, sister, mother, father, son or daughter is taken away to risk their life for their country. The agony of waiting to hear from them so you can know if they are alive or dead and the emptiness of their place at the table each night at dinner time is something that the politicians just donít know because theyíve never experienced it. They talk about sacrifice but make none. They talk about hope and the future while they rob both from those left behind in many cases. For every coffin under a flag there is a family left incomplete forever after. It is time to talk about the realities of war instead of the rhetoric of making political hay out of war. The discussions of war should always be about the human costs first and everything else second. They say we must support our troops but what about the troopsí families? What about the children left asking ďWhen is daddy coming home?Ē when the truth is daddy may never be coming home. How do we support the mommy when she has to tell this innocent child that daddy has gone away forever?

Each year there is a big push to put together gift boxes for our troops in an effort to make the holidays happier for them. Perhaps itís time to start talking about urging our politicians to do more for the families left behind such as mandating shorter combat tours and more frequent troop rotations so that families can spend more time as families and less time as casualties of war. It could just be time to start talking about looking to the future with the stated national policy of diplomacy before war so that a generation of children doesnít have to grow up without one or both of their parents. In this season of giving maybe itís time to give families back their family lives. While the reality of war is not likely to go away in the foreseeable future there are ways we can lessen the punishment of families for the patriotism of our soldiers. While war is the reality of the day, we should not accept that it must forever be so.

We the People need to tell our politicians that it is past time to help the families of our soldiers find a reason to celebrate the joy of the holidays again. This time of joyousness should be a joyous time for all. Itís time to put aside the speeches and quiet the rattling sabers. Itís far past time to beat our swords into plowshares and realize a world where war is an antiquated notion contemplated only by fools. The cost of war is more than just the loss of lives in combat. How many children will now grow up without a father or mother for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? How many more will have to before we realize that war does not solve problems? War merely changes the scope and victims of the problems. I am not a man of great wisdom but even I can see the simple truth of war. In war there are no winners. There are only those who survive intact, those who are scarred and those who die. Sadly many that bear the scars are not those who fought the battles or started the wars. They did nothing more than love someone who made the decision to serve their country.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article.



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