Apology for a Parade
A while back I received an email alert from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA) asking me to support “…a single national day of action, coordinating the efforts of cities and towns nationwide to celebrate our nation's newest heroes and connect them with the resources they have earned.” Yesterday, the BBC asked if the US should hold a parade for returning veterans. My reaction to both was surprisingly, negative, which I thought was awfully churlish response to fellow veterans, many of whom sacrificed far more than I ever did.
That negative reaction is to the war in which those troops served. Despite their sacrifice and dedication, the Iraq war was a meaningless mission that did nothing good for America. It weakened the national economy, encouraged greater hostility toward this nation around the world and took the lives of almost 5,000 Americans and countless tens of thousands of Iraqis. The war began with lies and became an extended occupation that diminished America’s international credibility in so many ways. Exactly what would I celebrate about that “accomplishment”?
What I would do is apologize for sending these service members into harm’s way to no good end. The mission was not worthy of their sacrifice yet they performed it as best they could, as they trained to do. We owe them for that. IAVA has been at the forefront of advocating for this generation of veterans so I won’t gainsay their call for a national day of recognition and promoting veterans’ re-integration into society.
Genuine recognition will last much longer than a day, though. Veterans from the Global War on Terror, the Long War and ongoing Overseas Contingency Operations will be with us well into mid century. If America keeps it promises to these veterans, the nation will spend about a trillion dollars caring for them in coming decades. That obligation continues long after the guns fall silent and the troops come home.
Seeing that veterans do in fact receive the care and benefits that they have earned is certainly an appropriate recognition. That we sent them to war for a lie is not cause to celebrate.
An apology is more appropriate.