By Richard Rogers
All Veterans and their friends and families are welcome at the Second Annual Veterans Day Celebration at Mammoth Fire Station #1 on Main Street – Monday, Nov. 12, at 9 a.m. with breakfast provided. A graduate of Mammoth High School — and a Veteran —offers the following comments.
It’s a strange feeling to think of one’s self as a Veteran at the age of 23. When I think of the word “Veteran” I think of my Grandpa serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, or my parent’s friend who was a combat pilot in Vietnam. The last thought that comes to mind when I think of the word “Veteran” is myself and all the other young men and woman who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s important to remember, though, that that is exactly who we are and, as Veterans of these most recent wars, we have a role to live up to. A good friend asked me recently, “What do you think it means to be a Veteran nowadays?” I didn’t have an answer for him at the time because, truly, I had yet to think of myself as a Veteran. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I would say that being a Veteran comes down to three main commitments.
Many American citizens today are so far removed from the fighting in Afghanistan that they forget that we are still over there, that Americans are still dying there. So for me, the first commitment we have is reminding the public that a war is still going on and that, even though it might not affect them or their loved ones personally, it still very much affects the health of the nation and of millions of families.
The disconnect between those who serve in the military and the citizens who don’t is growing ever wider, despite the fact that all Americans should be vested in the success of our soldiers. Let’s remember back to 11 years ago, and remember the sacrifices all Veterans and their families have made, to see to it that we never have to experience a day like 9/11 ever again.
The second commitment ties in closely with the first. We know soldiers are dying in Afghanistan, and now it’s time to ask why. We served our country with pride and now the greatest service we can do for our country is to demand an answer to that simple question. If we want to continue to struggle there, then to what end? I believe all Americans agree success in Afghanistan is vital to our nation’s security. Where people disagree is on the question of when our role would end and the Afghan people’s role would begin.
Our president has announced a drawdown plan, which would bring all American troops home by the end of 2014 and allow for a smooth transition to the Afghan military. What people are not as aware of is that the role of American troops in Afghanistan has already been handcuffed and marginalized so much by the policies of the Afghan government in Kabul that at this point the only difference between coming home now or in 2014 is the American body count.
The last commitment, and the most important of the three, is to respect those who came before us, those who died in service and those who continue to deal with the scars of war. It’s our responsibility that these Veterans are never forgotten. We do that by holding ourselves to a higher standard in whatever walk of life we go into after leaving military service, and by dedicating time to helping those Veterans who need a helping hand.
A good military perspective comes from The Ranger Creed that states, “I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.” We upheld that promise in combat, now it’s time to uphold that promise to those suffering from PTSD and other traumatic wounds, enemies they will battle with their whole life.
Rangers lead the way!
Ed. Note: The author of this article will not be officially discharged from the Army until after the Celebration and felt it best not to disclose his real name. Extra credit if you can identify Richard Rogers.