Support for the Troops…Really?

Carl S. Ey

Three and a half months removed from a one-year tour to Southwest Asia and supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, concerns about our country’s support for our service members disturb me, greatly.

Support doesn’t end with wearing a yellow lapel ribbon.   Americans need to hold their public leaders, corporations and Defense Department accountable for their behavior.

I simply can’t figure out what, “I support the troops but I don’t support the war” really means.   Our Commander-in-Chief made the decision to go to war against Iraq after 99 Senators voted to go and 392 members of Congress voted similarly.  Service members get it; the boss said fight so we fight and I might add we did so very well.  Liberating Baghdad in record time was no small feat, particularly when the inside of an Armored Personnel Carrier reaches temperatures over 130 degrees with the crew’s heads strapped into a chemical protective mask.

Yet politicians such as a Representative Jim McDermott make comments such as, “I did not support this war and I have personally seen the soldiers whose lives that have been shattered by the President’s failed agenda. However, despite this abuse of the lives and loyalties of our troops, I recognize that we have an unquestionable obligation to support them.”

Celebrities like Sean Pean, Barbara Streisand and Michael Moore continually questioned and denounced the war as Army and Marine Divisions assumed their battle positions in Kuwait.  Not one would question the sincerity and integrity of the individual service member but undermining our efforts by condemning the war indicates an implied disdain for the Armed Force’s efforts.

These public figures need to realize that going to war isn’t a multiple-choice question.  It must be an all-or-nothing sentiment from the United States of America i.e. the voters and citizens of this country must support the decisions that compel our troops into harm’s way.   Anyone saying that they support the troops but not the war has about as much relevance as Janet Jackson’s apology for “Nipplegate.”  After the decision is made, tacit support to the Armed Forces is useless.

Secondly, throughout my tenure in the theater of operations, we were bombarded with newspapers, magazines and flyers advertising support for our fighting men and women.  Offers of free air transportation, discounts on vacation packages and other incentives littered corporate America’s advertising campaigns.

However, when I returned home, many of these  “come-ons,” seemed to have little actual merit.

As a career soldier, I have seen it before so it isn’t hard for me to swallow but watching a young enlisted member realize the disappointment attached to the fine print that indicates only ONE free ticket or only ONE free vacation package really annoys me.

Corporate America needs to understand that when service members deploy, it is a war and not a marketing opportunity.

Thirdly, the Department of Defense’s debate in August 2003 on cutting the combat pay and family separation pay for service members serving in combat zones was a public relations disaster.    Seemingly, every media outlet in the country carried this story indicating that the defense budget strategists were threatening these incentive bonuses.  I don’t know of one service member who joined for additional combat pay but giving it and then debating the removal of this bonus is demoralizing.

How could Time Magazine’s Person-of-the-Year take a cut in pay considering what they are accomplishing?  As billions of dollars are being funded to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, you don’t save a few million by subtracting payroll dollars from the guys and girls working grueling hours in despicable conditions in Southwest Asia.

Right after 9-11, this country’s support was overwhelming.  Other nations were in awe of how powerful the American spirit truly is.  However, if it doesn’t touch close to home, the implication is that a red, white and blue bumper sticker will suffice for supporting some young Marine pulling guard duty in the middle of Baghdad.

Inherently, service members volunteer to protect the liberties of the greatest country in the world realizing that there may come a day when we might pay the ultimate sacrifice for serving. I haven’t met one member of our military that serves for a super-saver airfare, celebrity recognition or bonus bucks.  Yet, allowing politicians and Corporate America to use the war as a platform to further their interests is something the American public needs to put an end to and that only begins with wearing a yellow lapel ribbon!