A close friend of mine has a son who joined the armed services straight out of high school rather than going to college, not because he and his family were gung-ho hawks, but because he wanted to serve his country and because he thought it would help him become a man. He chose to become a grunt in the Marines; if he was going to do it, he was going to "do it right" by being on the front lines. He was injured yesterday in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan by IED attack. His injuries were considered minor, but the injuries of one of his buddies were far graver.
I think I've written before about the emotional dangers facing our soldiers, and that they seem to increase exponentially with each deployment. That's outside of the physical danger they face daily, and the unbelievable conditions in which they live. I remember the first time I saw this photo—these guys are sleeping, not dead—and having it hit home in a visceral way how brave these young (some as young as 18) men and women are; it's frankly unfathomable to me, in my air-conditioned suburban home surrounded by beautiful flowers and the ability to bathe and/or shower at will.
These "forgotten" wars of ours shame me, not only because we continue to fight them when the true enemies are elsewhere, but because they are forgotten. I continually wonder why we aren't exposed to these wars on a daily basis, on television, in newspapers, on online news outlets and blogs. Because of modern techniques more and more soldiers survive horrific traumas to their brains, psyches, and bodies that would previously have left them dead on the battlefield or in field hospitals. And yet most of us don't realize their survival comes at unimaginable costs to their long-term quality of life.
And now, I guess it's time to go shopping in order to support our troops this Memorial Day weekend.