Sports commentary: Thank you for your service

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The Army-Navy game should remind us of larger issues

By Mike Forster


Go Army!  Beat Navy!

"Wait a minute," you might be thinking.  "Didn't this guy write a column on the Army-Navy game last week?

I did.  But I'm not through with the topic.

Last week's column was written in a humorous vein, though I'm certain there are readers who might counter that last week's column was merely an attempt at writing in a humorous vein.

This week, I'm taking a more somber approach.

The Army-Navy game is a wonderful event.  It features a tremendous rivalry amidst the pageantry and tradition of two of the finest schools in our nation.

Here's one thing that I absolutely love.  This weekend, there will be exactly one D1-A college football game played in our nation. That means that college fans will get their football fix from one place:  those two military academies.

It will be an opportunity for those schools to showcase their offerings.  It is also an opportunity for us to tip our collective hat to the military.

Such opportunities, in my opinion, are exceedingly rare relative to the debt we owe our service members. 

Sure, we have Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  We give a nod of the head to the military on 9/11.

Dec. 7 recently passed.  That date used to be known as "Pearl Harbor Day."  With the Greatest Generation passing on, however, that day seems to have lost its importance.

Pearl Harbor likely resonates with kids today about as much as "Remember the Maine" did with members of that generation, or the sinking of the Lusitania did with mine.

Commemorative events come and go  What doesn't seem to change is the fact that we continue to ask our military to do an awful lot of heavy lifting, and oftentimes those men and women seem to pay for answering the call for the rest of their lives.

I just finished a book titled Thank you for your Service." The wife recommended it to me, and I'm glad she did.

The book follows a number of infantry soldiers and their families as they try to transition from active duty in Iraq to a semblance of normal life back home.

Scratching by, despite the loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, haunting remembrances and broken souls, these people seem to have little hope for a return to normalcy.

If you enjoy fairy tales and sweet endings, this is not the book for you.

If, however, you are interested in taking a small peek into what life as a wounded warrior might look like, I strongly encourage you to pick up this book, by David Finkel.  Last I looked, there's a copy of it at the Bedford Central Library.

Read it, and you garner a slight taste of the frustration and helplessness some of our wartime veterans experience.

You also get a sense of just how alone some of them feel.  That solitude isn't necessarily a result of abandonment on the part of their country.  On the contrary, the book goes to great lengths to show that there are serious efforts being made (in both the private and public sectors) to help these guys heal.

No, their loneliness stems from a lack of shared experience with their fellow citizens.  The guy down the street has no idea what it's like to go on patrol in a hostile neighborhood, let alone what it's like to be in a vehicle that is blown several stories in the air by a roadside bomb.

I sure don't.

I spent seven years in the Army.  The time during which I served may have been the most peaceful this nation has ever known.  At the time, I was disappointed:  I was there to fight, after all.  Only later in life did I come to this realization:  I thank God I spent my time in a peacetime army.

It seems to me that we should have a greater appreciation for those that serve in the military.  If you see a soldier in the airport, give a handshake in gratitude for what he or she is doing.

If you see a sailor in a diner, pick up his breakfast tab.

Support the benefit runs and concerts and other events that help our military.

Pray for them.

But, the most singularly supportive thing you can do for them is to hold to the fire the feet of those who would put them in harm's way.  We have, by far, the mightiest military in the world.  But, that reason, alone, doesn't merit it being deployed on a whim.

Nor should we be any less deliberative in engaging our military forces because those people that comprise them are doing so on a voluntary basis.  That they "knew what they were getting into when they signed up." 

First off, nobody knows what war is like until they are in the middle of it.  Second, we as a nation will be (rightly) supporting those who returned from war in a damaged state.

That ongoing support needs to be part of the calculus used in committing our troops.

That's another thing we owe to them.  Maybe that would result in a break.

It'd be kind of nice if this year's Army-Navy game is the closest thing those cadets and middies ever come to battle.