22 March 2011

Don't You Know There's a War On?

During his children's sermon earlier this week, our pastor asked those present to name those places in the world that seem to need an extra portion of God's love. Each time someone called out a location--adults were encouraged to participate, too--he'd place a pink construction-paper heart on a world map held between two acolytes.

Here's what people came up with:
  • Australia (floods)
  • Brazil (rainforests)
  • China
  • Canada (eh?)
  • Haiti (Cholera, earthquake, flood)
  • Japan (earthquake, meltdown)
  • Libya (revolution, U.S. military involvement)
  • Washington, D.C.
I'm all about crowdsourcing the word of God, but I couldn't help notice two places apparently no longer on our radar of good intentions: Afghanistan and Iraq.

Maybe it's war fatigue. Maybe it's a political climate, here in the homeland, that encourages demonization over democracy. Maybe it's a national media that's too easily distracted by squirrels. Maybe it's the fact that so few U.S. citizens seem to be or know people in uniform.

Whatever the reasons, good people sleeping peaceably in their beds at night are glazing over the so-called Global War on Terror.

Even the ones that are paying attention might be in danger of getting the wrong idea. Take, for example, the current deployment of the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division to Afghanistan. There are roughly 3,000 citizen-soldiers on the deployment, and each have their own stories. Some directly engage both friends and enemies on a regular basis. Others might spend most of their year-long deployments "safely" behind the walls of a friendly military base.

Arguments over who's got it worse or who's more important miss an important target: Every soldier serves. Every soldier misses out on a year or more of life at home. Every soldier is daily sacrificing something by walking in those boots.

There are also 3,000 different stories told to friends and family. Some buddies of mine, for example, won't tell their spouses if and when they've gone "outside the wire"--left the relative safety of a military fortification. What they don't know won't hurt 'em, they say, and if the wife thinks I'm safely behind a desk, everybody's a winner. Other friends, on the other hand, go out of their ways to talk about being at the "tip of the spear."

(There are so many self-nominated "tips of the spear" downrange, one has to hope that someone is actually holding that figurative weapon, and pointing it in the right direction.)

I've recently heard from other Red Bull friends both downrange and here at home, frustrated with the apparent lack of understanding that an Army deployment isn't all puppies and candy.

"I think it is that they want to be informed but they don't want to hear bad stuff," one Red Bull recently wrote via Facebook. "It's like our families think that we just sit around, relax, and just enjoy the air. Every time I talk to anyone back home they act like this is some sort of vacation for me."

To their respective organizations' credits, recent reports from Midwestern newspapers have begun to crack potential mis-conceptions here at home, offering people a clearer-eyed and closer view of a conflict otherwise too easily forgotten.

An Omaha World-Herald team, for example, recently encountered a couple of concrete reminders of how soldiers live daily at risk. First, there were the blast-marked walls of a Combat Outpost ("COP"). Then, there was a padlock on the "Morale, Welfare, and Recreation" Internet café.

A Des Moines (Iowa) Register team recently noted the effects of an Improved Explosive Device (I.E.D.) attack on a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP, "em-rap") vehicle.

It's not a vacation. It's a war of some sort, conducted on our behalf.

Pay attention. And pray for an extra portion of providence.


Image used in this post: Cover of "Don't You Know There's a War On: Wartime Slogans and Sayings" by Nigel Rees, to be published July 2011.


  1. Overload.

    This country is just on serious overload. Our government in on such overload that they tend to forget some basic lessons learned in kindergarten. Like – finish one thing at a time before you move on to something else. Our culture is always up in arms about everyone else’s lives that they tend to forget to take care of their own life, their children, their family, their health. The first thing ANY caregiver is told is to “be sure to take care of yourself first, you can’t give what you don’t have.” Can that apply to a country? And unfortunately, the media follows the loudest “boom.” And then proceed to out-adjective each other.

    Which is why we need guys like you: you will not let 3,000 citizen soldiers get lost. You and your fellow bloggers will be sure that we stay reminded that we have a job to finish! That we have soldiers who’s life’s are still at risk and need to come home. And when they DO come home, some of them need help and care. And while we take care of our own soldiers, maybe – just maybe, places liked Libya will learn to take of themselves; which is the eternal hope for Afghanistan. And we come full circle.

    I don’t know the answer. So, I’m going for a walking meditation outside, breath some good air. Call my daughters see how they are doing. Plant some flowers. Take care of my own. See what comes after that. Naïve? I know. But, I’m so sick and tired of overload.

  2. @ Ria: Thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking words! This was just ... lovely. Thank you.


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