By Rev. Paul N. Papas II
28 May 2012
MEMORIAL DAY 2012 – Freedom is Not Free
Having served as a volunteer VA Chaplain and a Veteran I found this AP story about how US troops in Kabul marked Memorial Day by reading a fallen Marine’s letter stirring and had to add my two cents.
U.S. Marine Sgt. William Stacey was killed earlier this year by a homemade bomb in southern Afghanistan, a tragedy for which he prepared by writing a letter to his family explaining why he was fighting that was to be read in the event of his death.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, read the 23-year-old’s letter during a Memorial Day service Monday in Kabul for all the troops who have died in the country since the war started in 2001.
“Today we remember his life and his words, for they speak resoundingly and timelessly for our fallen brothers and sisters in arms,” said Allen, who also leads the NATO coalition in Afghanistan.
Stacey was on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed on Jan. 31 in Helmand province. The young Marine from Redding, Calif., told his family that he was motivated to fight in Afghanistan to protect the country’s children and provide them the opportunity to go to school and live out their dreams.
“There will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home to come to his,” Stacey wrote in his letter. “He will have the gift of freedom which I have enjoyed for so long myself, and if my life brings the safety of a child who will one day change the world, then I know that it was all worth it.”
Stacey deployed to Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division out of Camp Pendleton, CA
While service men and women are serving our Country and protecting our Freedoms many forget the wives and husbands, children, parents, and sibling that serve that hang on every bit of news from their loved ones and the news also serve with them. We should remember and honor them as well; too many don’t see their loved one service man and women again. That is a high price to pay for freedom.
Many of today’s troops are over worked and just worn out by repeated deployments to combat missions.
Vietnam had its share of combat veterans return as a shell of themselves to a home that mocked and spit on them while calling them Baby Killers. The attitudes at home did not assist a returning combat veteran in decompressing and healing. The attitudes at home did hinder the combat veteran’s recovery from a variety of medical issues including the medical condition of a mental illness such as Depression and PTSD.
Today’s Iraqi, Kuwait, and Afghanistan combat Veterans are not returning home to the same attitudes as the Vietnam combat Veterans did. Today’s Iraqi, Kuwait, and Afghanistan combat Veterans suffer from a number of other things that way heavy on their minds. In Iraqi, Kuwait, and Afghanistan the enemy has more sophisticated tools of destruction, including suicide bombers. Today’s Combat troops face a number of other issues that others have not. While on active duty our troops are worried that the economy at home combined with their low pay will find their homes foreclosed upon and their families not properly provided for. While on active duty defending our way of life, our way of life is not protecting them or their families. When you add these weights to the multiple deployments that don’t allow our troops enough time to mentally and emotionally heal from the seen and unseen bruises and scars of war you could have a fragile troop on your hands.
I was asked if the VA or Military doctor could help these fragile troops. The short answer is most troops would carry to their grave the baggage they carry before opening up to a VA or Military doctor because of the Stigma that would attach to them if they did. If their medical files contain the medical condition of a mental illness there is a possibility they would not be seen as fit for duty, for promotion and possibly receive a less than Honorable discharge. Those medical and military records are there forever and could negatively affect our troop for the rest of his life.
We train and expect our troops to be lean and mean fighting machines. On the other hand we don’t support them in a way that would allow them to be a lean and mean fighting machines.
They travel miles in the heat.
They risk their lives crossing a border.
They don’t get paid enough wages.
They do jobs that others won’t do or are afraid to do.
They live in crowded conditions among a people who speak a different language.
They rarely see their families, and they face adversity all day ~ every day.
I’m not talking about illegal immigrants. I am talking about our troops.
Wouldn’t it be great if we took the $360,000,000,000 (that’s billion) we spend on illegal’s every year, and spend it on our troops!!!
A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for any amount, up to and in including their life.
On this Memorial Day let’s honor the Veterans and their families by providing the support they need and deserve.
Freedom is not Free