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Monday, January 20, 2014

Lone Survivor

Where to begin.  I saw this movie on Friday, and still it haunts me.  And I hope it will haunt me for a very long time.  Military/war movies have always fascinated me.  I won't say I *enjoy* them, because that's not true.  I like to watch them, because I like the way they make me feel.  No, that's not quite right either.  I don't like the way I feel.  But the burning deep in my soul, the hot tears on my face, the searing in my heart - is a reminder of sacrifices made not only by brave soldiers, but by the families they leave at home.  Watching them helps me remember to be grateful to those who serve.  It reminds me that while I'm sitting in a climate-controlled comfortable movie seat (or my sofa at home in my jammies), that there are soldiers in faraway places whose steps are measured with danger. 

There was a time when it would irritate me to hear people criticize the government for all the wars and 'conflicts' that we involve ourselves in.  I blamed their "lack of patriotism" on liberalism.  I have no clue what it takes to run the armed forces, and how best to manage foreign policy.  But I will say this:  I firmly believe that if we were the same nation we were on December 7, 1941, there would have been no 9/11.  If this "sleeping giant" was still considered a giant by our enemies, they would leave us alone.  Instead they laugh at us and spit on us like ants, because they know we will not retaliate effectively. 

Our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts seems too little too late.  The borders of our nation have been infiltrated by terrorists, and they live in our neighborhoods.  There may be one next door to you or me.  We can kill all the Taliban senior leaders we want to, but there will always be plenty more to take their place.  And even if we kill all of them, there is nothing to stop those living among us from carrying out their plots of destruction.  

Perhaps it is necessary to engage in warfare with these people.  But I'm thinking less and less so.  Don't misunderstand.  I will support the American soldier with all that is in me, and respect their service and dedication.  I just think I've crossed over that line and now agree with my friends who say we have no business being involved in the affairs of these foreign lands.  

Perhaps we would be better served to keep our soldiers at home, and track down the terrorists who live on our soil.... just biding their time until they strike again.  Tighten up borders, send all undocumented people home.  Stop subsidizing the education of foreigners who come here to learn technology, then take it back to their motherland and use it against us.  Stop arms trafficking.  How many American soldiers are killed with guns that the enemies got from America to start with?  Instead of worrying so much about background checks for law-abiding citizens to legally purchase guns, how about doing intelligence checks on foreigners before allowing them to enter the US?  I'll never believe that we do not posses the technology to weed these people out and take them down.  But we won't do that, because we've become such a politically correct nation that we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings (unless they claim to be Christian, then they're fair game), and we don't want to 'discriminate' against illegal aliens, or foreigners trying to come into the country. 

It was just a movie.  But when some of the scenes still flash across my mind, my eyes begin to sting again.  It was much more than just a movie.  As horrible as it was to watch, I know it can't even to begin to depict just how terrible it was in reality.  We spent 2 hours getting to know these four men, a little bit about their personal lives, and then watched them execute the skills necessary to complete their mission.  A fluke encounter with the locals was the beginning of the end.  For each of these men, there have been thousands before them who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  We would be sitting in theaters for months on end if movies were made about every mission gone bad, every brutal attack, every band of brothers who didn't make it back home.  

I have a friend who was an on point soldier in Viet Nam.  First in after a mission.  He never got over it, and requires mental health management and medication. How does one lead a normal life after witnessing such atrocities? It is hard for me to breathe, and my eyes and head will ache for days after only watching their stories. How does a human return home from war and not be changed?  I am old enough to remember the way Viet Nam soldiers were treated by those at home protesting our involvement.  (Does the name Hanoi Jane ring a bell?)  The memory sickens me.  Two of my uncles did several tours on a battleship during that war, and I would probably nut up on anyone who showed them disrespect for their service.  I once saw a stranger wearing  a baseball cap that said Viet Nam Vet.  I went over to him and gave him a hug and said "thank you".  It was all my constricted throat would allow me to say, and I barely got it out.  (I hope it was his hat!). The sight of soldiers walking through an airport just about does me in, and I can find no words - a high five, or my hand over my heart has to suffice. 

All the men in my close family are military men.  I my ownself decided to join the Air Force in 1977.  I had done everything but sign on the dotted line.  My physical was scheduled and a tentative departure date to Lackland AFB in Texas had been assigned.  At the last minute, I allowed someone to convince me that "nice girls" didn't go into the military.  I was ready, and I was willing.  (Of course, at that time, there were no active conflicts - perhaps that would have impacted my decision.) Shortly after that, I met the man I would marry, and a few years later, we had a child.  So there was no looking back, and it's one of those things that no matter how much I say "what if", I wouldn't change it, because I can't imagine not having my daughter and grandchildren.  

Freedom is not free.  That's a quote I love. And for those who fought the Revolutionary War, it is true.  For those who fought with William Wallace, it is true.  For those who fought against Hitler, it is true. Throughout the pages of history, the price of freedom has often been the bloodshed of war. However, I have a hard time equating it with what's going on in the world nowadays.  What we are doing in these snake-infested, godforsaken desert lands over there seems to have little to do with my freedom, or your freedom.  Bin-Laden is dead.  Hussein is dead. Some of their top guys are dead.  Tragically, many of our soldiers are also dead.  Yet we are not free.  We have become a slave to those who would harm us, and in the process, we are imploding from within as a country. We are prisoners of our own government and the terrorists who they can (supposedly) neither locate nor eradicate.

I hope you'll expose yourself to some of these terrible war movies from time to time, and allow your discomfort to remind you to be respectful and grateful - no matter what your personal political feeling about the military may be.  Maybe it will anger you, as it does me, at the waste of precious lives.  Hopefully it will call us all to a point of humility, and to pray (or send good thoughts - whatever you do) for these men and women, and the families they leave behind.  One day it might be our loved one coming home in a flag-draped coffin.  I pray not.

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