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by Marilyn Barnewall, ©2013

The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery is located near the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 near the Marne River in France

(May 27, 2013) — The William E. Colby Military Writers’ Symposium made its way into my television viewing about two weeks ago.  Each Saturday afternoon (1:00 p.m. MDT) on C-SPAN 2 a group of experts who have written books on military topics discuss their works, many of which should interest us all..  The program is named after William E. Colby who was Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from September 1973 to January 1976. Today’s topic (May 25, 2013) was “Coming Home:  The Hopes, Fears, and Challenges of Veterans Returning from War.”

Perhaps it’s because it’s the Memorial Day weekend, or perhaps I have a guilty conscience because I haven’t spent as much time dwelling on the problems of our veterans as I should (and I think I spend more time thinking about it than most Americans), it made me think of the obligations we all have to the men and women who serve our Great Nation by paying a personal price for their service that most of us don’t even consider.

Whether you support them or not, whether you love or hate the military, whether you think every battle in which America has been involved since WWII is legitimate (no wars have been declared by Congress as required by the Constitution for a legitimate war to exist), and no matter if you are a Pacifist who totally disagrees with the concept of military presence, we all owe a huge debt to our military.  It is a debt to which most Americans don’t give a truly serious thought.  A lot of people today openly and publicly thank our veterans for their service… but do we really understand that for which we’re thanking them?

One of the topics discussed on today’s Colby Symposium was how those who have been in battle are not the same people when they return home, but the environment they return to is the same.  Those who have been subjected to the culture of violence have changed. Those who stayed behind have not. It is a built-in conflict waiting to happen and veterans are the ones who pay the price for it long after they have removed their uniform and stripes or metal rank designations.

I always invite emails – and I try to answer them all – but I want no messages from those who object to our military presence in the Middle East. I object to it, too.  Do I believe George W. Bush sent our military there because of weapons of mass destruction? I believe it was a good excuse – and yes, I do believe the weapons were there and were used by Saddam against the Iraqi people. I believe evidence of substance proves they there and were moved before American boots hit the sand.

I do not believe, however, that American blood should be spilled everywhere in the world just because a good reason exists to intervene in the political happenings of violent cultures.  And I want no messages from those whose misbegotten beliefs make them compulsive about telling others that Islam is a peaceful faith.  They’ve been blowing up busses and using their children as bomb-carrying vehicles to blow other people up since I was a child – and I’m an old woman.

The Islamic answer to everything is violence… “kill infidels” is their motto.  Jihad is the modus operandi.  The Koran tells them it’s okay to lie to infidels (that would be you and me, mostly) or to kill them if they are bothersome and stand in the way of making everyone believers. If you don’t stand in the way, Muslims believe you should be taxed for not being one of them… and even then, you are their inferior. Please don’t tell me about peaceful Muslims. As the old saying goes, “Pretty is as pretty does.”

Many Americans, including me, believe the action in Afghanistan is about the poppy fields and resultant drug income (which has increased exponentially since our involvement in that nation more than ten years ago). We believe it is a political war designed as our President has said, to change the minds and hearts of people who don’t want their minds and hearts changed.  That is an unwinnable war. No one in the history of the world has won a war against a “thing.”  Terrorism is a thing without a face.  Terrorists are people – usually people who feel personally powerless and need to prove something – but the point is, no war can be won against unidentifiable enemies (especially when it is politically incorrect to profile them). Iraq was/is in all likelihood, about oil… and about George W. finishing what Daddy Bush began in 1991. It, too, is a political war. The threat to our national security? The loss of oil… which could be replaced by removing constrictions placed on drilling in this country (or by working with the Canadians to bring their pipeline South).

The point is, none of those things matter when discussing those damaged by their exposure to the battles fought and the damage done to them. They fought for their nation. They fought because they are young (mostly) and believe what they have been taught by their schools and, yes, largely by their parents. “America is the greatest nation in the world. America is free and there is no greater honor than to pay the ultimate price for defending freedom.” Both messages have a lot of potential – but both are no longer true.

As we look back on events that have occurred since 9/11/12, we know those words are no longer true.  As we look back on events that have occurred since Wall Street and the Federal Reserve System bankrupted America, as we watch them smilingly continue their unlawful behavior, protected by the government supported by taxpayers, we know that is no longer true.

What we know to be true is that our politicians are morally compromised.  The bureaucrats who serve the politicians rather than the people are morally compromised.  We know that both groups consider the Constitution of the United States to be meaningless – if they consider it at all.  We know there is no respect for the Rule of Law that flows both from our Creator and our Constitution. 

Everyone wants to blame “them” for what is happening and overlook our own responsibilities for letting it happen.  Too many citizens of this country believe the axiom that their greatest responsibility as an American citizen is to vote.  Too few know that their greatest responsibility as an American citizen is to involve themselves in the political process and make sure that only candidates of the highest quality get on the ballot.

When was the last time you involved yourself in your local political system – when was the last time you went to a County Commission meeting?  When was the last time you attended a local school board meeting?  When was the last time you went to your county’s political party caucus to support the best candidates and to make sure they, not some political party hack, got on the ballot?  When was the last time you even bothered to check the background of a candidate put forward by your local party, Democrat or Republican?  Most of us know we would not now have in office the current administration had anyone in the Democrat party vetted the background of Barrack Hussein Obama before nominating him… before he spent millions hiding and sealing his records.  No.  It was much more important to have a Black candidate who could charm people rather than have on the ballot the right Black candidate who loves his or her country and has a clear vision of freedom rather than tyranny.  That’s not “their” fault.  It’s ours.

We are not the America of old.  We are the new America.  The American people have allowed themselves to be led, like sheep, into a pen.  Our freedoms are disappearing – freedoms that cannot exist when the responsibility that goes with each is ignored because We, the People, would rather watch Survivor or Dancing With the Stars than go to a school board meeting to make sure what our children are being taught by the federally-controlled system reflects the values that benefit us as a free people.

And that is how the system was overtaken… as Kruschev once told us it would be:  From within.  Specifically he said:  “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in” (“Нравится вам или нет, но история на нашей стороне. Мы вас закопаем.”  And we let him.

Regardless (and back to my topic), the young men and women in our military still believe America is the greatest nation in the world.  Their confidence must be shaken by what happened in Benghazi, by Fast and Furious, by bankers who, while the young person served their country, raped their parents’ financial assets and are still walking around free with no prosecutions in sight.  They see the IRS scandal – a mode of behavior that would have made Mr. Kruschev proud to have plotted it – and by the Department of Justice who forgot the rights of the media – actually, they (along with the media) forgot the responsibility of the media:  To constantly investigate government corruption in all areas of organized opposition to the political party in power.

Our problems in America as we celebrate Memorial Day 2013 did not begin under the Obama Administration (as most conservatives like to think).  The big change began under Jimmy Carter, got railroaded for awhile by Ronald Reagan (who was forced by the RNC to accept George Herbert Walker Bush as his running mate – either that or receive insufficient funds from the Republican Party to win the election), but was put back on track with the election of former CIA Director George H.W. Bush.  The big change continued under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  I do not lay the political disasters and unlawful changes to interpretations of our Constitution at the feet of any one political party. 

All of that aside, we have veterans returning home whose suicide rates are higher than at any other time in our history.  Why?  I believe it’s because our military doctors have the responsibility for physical healing and, for the most part and aided by technology, have done a good job.  But We, the People, have placed the responsibility for mental, emotional and spiritual healing on the families of our veterans.  That burden belongs on all of our shoulders, not just on the shoulders of families and loved ones.  We civilians need to become more involved in helping our veterans heal.  Dear Lord, I never thought I’d say this… it agrees with a woman for whom I have nothing but disdain:  It takes a village to help our military veterans return to normal.

It’s good that we now say “thank you for your service” rather than spitting on veterans when they return (as the generation that currently runs government did back in the 60s).  When is the last time you took a bouquet of flowers to a Veterans Hospital and just walked it into the room of an unknown veteran and talked, letting him or her know you’re concerned?  When is the last time you visited a neighbor next door whose loved one just returned from the violence and took them dinner or offered to baby sit so they could go to a movie?  When is the last time you made an effort to find out who in your community is returning home after serving in the Middle East and sent them a letter offering a ride to your church service… or to take them to dinner?

Have you ever offered an ear to returning vets so they have someone they can come to trust and feel safe talking with about their stresses in returning to civilian life?

There are many things all of us could do if we put our minds to it.  I can promise one thing will happen if you do.  You will feel much more fulfilled as a human being than you will after 60 minutes of Survivor or Dancing with the Stars.  You will have far more self respect – because you’ve earned it… just by turning off the television and getting up and doing the right thing because it’s right.

In the meantime, keep those memorialized in the following pictures in mind this Memorial Day weekend:

1 The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne, France; 2,289 American soldiers buried here

2. The American Cemetery at Ardennes, Belgium; 5,329 American soldiers buried here

3. The American Cemetery at Brittany, France; 4,410 American soldiers buried here

4. Brookwood, England American Cemetery; 468 Americans soldiers buried here

5. Cambridge, England; 3,812 American soldiers buried here


6. Epinal, France American Cemetery; 5,525 American soldiers buried here

7. Flanders Field, Belgium; 368 American soldiers buried here

8. Florence, Italy; 4,402 American soldiers buried here

9. Henri-Chapelle, Belgium; 7,992 American soldiers buried here

10. Lorraine, France; 10,489 American soldiers buried here

11. Luxembourg, Luxembourg; 5,076 American soldiers buried here

12. Meuse-Argonne; 14,246 American soldier buried here

13. Netherlands, Netherlands; 8,301 Americans buried here

14. Normandy, France; 9,387 American soldiers buried here

15. Oise-Aisne, France; 6,012 American soldiers buried here

16. Rhone, France; 861 American soldiers buried here

17. Sicily, Italy; 7,861 American soldiers buried here

18. Somme, France; 1,844 American soldiers buried here

19. St. Mihiel, France; 4,153 American soldiers buried here

20. Suresnes, France; 1,541 American soldiers buried here

This partial count of American soldiers buried at these European cemeteries totals 104,366. This does not include Arlington and all of the other veterans’ cemeteries around America, Europe and elsewhere.  Many, like my stepfather, are buried in  private cemeteries.  God bless them all.

What can you do to more actively support your military?


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  1. Thank you for writing “Memorial Day 2013”.
    Your words are straight and true.
    I wish I could turn back time to the day I came back into The World and knew then what I know now. My 17 years of nightmares affected a lot of people, and none of it for the better.