By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
DALLAS—The debate over the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is reduced too often to arguments about numbers and throw weights and force projections and politics. And, almost secondarily and from the level of about five miles up, the troops—what they need and what they deserve.
Saturday night I got to see some of them, up close and personal, at an event called Sky Ball, in an airport hangar here. I would challenge any reporter or journalist or blogger to do the same and then remain unaffected by what they saw and what they heard there.
Sponsored jointly by American Airlines and the Forth Worth Airpower Foundation, Sky Ball raises money to provide financial assistance to military families in the North Texas area. The sponsors say the support, which comes in many forms, allows them to give financial aid to deployed families and to hold departure and welcome-home receptions for troops on their way in and on their way out of combat postings. Sky Ball also supports welfare and relief projects for military units in the North Texas area and delivers care packages and other gifts to soldiers wounded in battle and recuperating at military hospitals.
All of this, sadly, is needed because of the way manpower requirements of the all-volunteer U.S. military intersect with life here at home. And, fortunately, the fact that these things happen results from the hard work of committed volunteers who understand that we are all in this together, that the welfare of the U.S. military isn't just the government's responsibility.
There are those who might say the better solution, the better way to manage the problems that occur when these two aspects of life intersect, is to end the conflicts, pull out, bring the troops home, and forget about what America stands for. It's something of a guess on my part but I'm betting there wasn't a person at Sky Ball who would accept that as a workable solution: not the decorated veterans, not the war widows, not the active duty personnel or the folks who were wounded in battle, not even the young man at my table who lost both legs and an arm in Iraq after an improvised explosive device detonated as his humvee went by.
As a nation we can argue about what the troops need. Better food, more ammunition, more armor for their vehicles, better healthcare when they get home, even an end to the conflicts themselves—the list is endless. From where I sat, after visiting with some of the folks at Sky Ball VII, what our troops need, more than anything else, is our respect and our gratitude. They need to know that the job they are doing on our behalf, on this country's behalf, matters. That we understand that they volunteered to place their lives and their limbs on the line for us and for freedom, that we haven't forgotten that fact and that we don't ignore it. That it is a part of our national consciousness, each and every day.
If they know that, if they believe that, then they can meet their mission objectives with confidence because, if we believe that, we here at home will do right by them, today and always.