Sunday, September 08, 2019

Updated: Does Sacrifices of Our Troops Mean Anything?

We all hear and say it, “thank you for your service” to Veterans and active duty Military. I’m sure most actually mean it when said, but do people actually understand what sacrifices our Troops have made over the years?

If so, why are those sacrifices so easily cast aside as if they hold no meaning?

What do I mean?

Think about it. Shortly after the Allies complete victory in World War Two, we saw the battles flare up again in Korea where Communist Forces of the North decided to conquer the South and impose total Communism in the country. American Troops sacrificed close to 34,000 dead with thousand coming back scared with wounds both physical and mental.

The Vietnam War saw us sacrifice over 58,000 lives with thousands more maimed for life.

The first Gulf War, Desert Storm saw almost 150 deaths of American Troops, but again, thousands left with lifelong issues, both physical and mental.

Then comes the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq after the horrific attacks witnessed on September 11, 2001 and still ongoing with again over 7,000 Troops paying the ultimate sacrifice and thousands more suffering from debilitating wounds and mental issues.

Needless to say, our Service Members have paid a high cost for us to remain free.

So why is it so easy to cast their sacrifices aside?

By that I mean take a look at the ending of the above conflicts, even today’s ongoing conflict against Terrorists.

We left Korea under a cease fire agreement that although the heavy fighting ended in 1953, animosities continued over the years. America put that war aside and got on with their lives, the Korean War becoming known also as “the Forgotten War” as accolades were paid to WWII battles and Troops.

Along comes Vietnam and the subsequent escalation into a full blown war, complete with battles, firefights and body counts reported nightly on American television. We left it under the “Paris Peace Accords” in 1973 with promises of if the North Vietnamese Communists violated the accords, we would return to ensure the South Vietnamese remained free.

We reneged on that promise as the North did violate the accords multiples times, concluding in all out invasion in 1975 as the American Congress and citizens turned a blind eye to the plight of the Vietnamese people and we saw on television Communist tanks break down the gates of the Presidential Palace while American Diplomatic staff tried desperately to escape from rooftops on helicopters, untold numbers of sympathetic South Vietnamese left to their own devices, trapped under the Communist Forces.

Few in America gave a damn.

Fast forward to Desert Storm and again, we committed Troops to repel Iraqi Saddam Hussein’s Troops after they invaded neighboring Kuwait. As we know, they were ejected and the conflict ended again with a Cease Fire agreement.

Throughout the 1990’s, under the B.J. Clinton administration, Saddam Hussein repeatedly violated the terms the Cease Fire and was met with a couple Cruise Missile reprisals and political rhetoric stated in television speeches by Clinton.

Saddam continued supporting terror unhindered and seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Then came September 11, 2001 and the most horrific terrorist attack in history as highjacked aircraft were flowed into the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon and another forcibly crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, taken over by passengers, destination unknown, but believed by many to be the White House or Congress.

Many called for President Bush to immediately retaliate, some believing Saddam Hussein’s involvement that ultimately proved untrue in this particular instance. Bush held them back with his famous comment, “When I take action, I’m not gonna fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.”

And it was decisive as after the Afghani Taliban refused to oust Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden from their midst, our Troops were sent in.

Shortly after as Afghanistan looked to be coming under control, the decision was made to implement the Clinton era policy of deposing Saddam Hussein and ridding his support of terrorists and providing safe haven for some.

Even though a policy signed by President Clinton in 1998, it was opposed by many Democrats who continued their opposition even after our Troops were sent in and largely successful after many bloody battles and sacrifices. With Saddam deposed and eventually executed by hanging, Iraq appeared on the road to better lives for most citizens and late 2007 began seeing a drawdown of American Troops, President Obama ordering a complete withdrawal of our Troops by 2011.

Obama, having ignored calls of withdrawing too soon, ended up having to send our Troops back to Iraq in 2014 as a renewed Jihadist enemy, now labeled ISIS began taking territory and establishing a very harsh ‘caliphate’ in Northern Iraq and beyond.

Afghanistan too saw a resurgence of Jihadist even though Osama bin Laden was killed. The Taliban began reasserting themselves in the region and reclaiming Afghani territory.

Now, we read of President Trump making overtures to the Taliban and setting up secret negotiations, now cancelled after a Taliban attack in Afghanistan killed several, including a US Soldier.

Whatever happened to our policy of not negotiating with terror groups?

While I do not support endless war, whatever happened to fighting for Victory over ‘how do we get out of it?’

Soldiers from the Korean War were forgotten. Soldiers from the Vietnam War were despised and demoralized seeing their hard fought sacrifices for naught as we handed the freedoms of the South Vietnamese to the brutality of Communists on a silver platter.

In Iraq, we crowed victory, Obama claiming, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” only to see renewed fighting and our Troops reengaging enemies in the Middle East.

I’m sure Trump would love to run for reelection in 2020 as the President that got us out of Afghanistan. But at what cost?

How many experiences do we need to see these negotiations and withdrawals make a mockery of the sacrifices made by our Troops as our enemies wait a short spell and renew their attacks, believing with good cause, we will capitulate and ignore their hostilities?

I’ve said before, I was still in the Army when Saigon fell in 1975. I had spent 19 months in Vietnam and knew we had promised to return if there were violations of the Peace Accords. The evening of April 30, 1975 saw me and rest of my company sitting on our gear in the company area in Ft. Bragg, N.C. just waiting on the orders to load up and deploy back to Vietnam.

The orders never came and were sent home where I too watched TV broadcast of the embarrassing actions of American escaping from roof tops and helicopters being pushed over the side of their aircraft carrier to make room.

I could only think, “Why was I ever sent there? Why did over 58,000 of my brothers sacrifice their lives only to see us hand it over to our sworn enemy?”

We did everything asked of us then. Troops today have done everything they have been asked to do as well.

Will there sacrifices be cast aside as easily as was ours, only to see the enemy they fought be given back power to enslave people again while Americans ignore it all and go shopping?

What good is it to say “Thank you for your service” if you are not willing to support the high price of the sacrifices made?

Why hold Memorial Day parades if those sacrifices are thrown away and cast aside as if nothing?

And to our elected officials I can only say if you are unwilling to support our Troops, whether you voted to deploy them or not, don’t send us into Harm’s Way.

Don’t seek photo ops with us to gain votes for reelection after you dishonor our sacrifices by voting to capitulate to an enemy.

If you cannot support our Troops being victorious over always wanting an exit strategy first, don’t send us.

Our sacrifices must have value too, just as our fathers and grandfathers sacrifices in the previous wars did.

Update Oct 10, 2019: Sad to add to the list of abandoned allies, the Kurds in Syria as Turkey now attacks them after President Trump called for American Troops to be pulled back. This habit we Americans seem to have developed over the decades towards allies and supporting their quest for freedom and Liberty reminds me of a letter written by Cambodia's Prince Sirik Matak, declining to accept our offer of withdrawing him from the country as the Khmer Rouge swarmed over Cambodia in 1975;
Dear Excellency and friend,

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion.

As for you and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection and we can do nothing about it. You leave us and it is my wish that you and your country will find happiness under the sky.

But mark it well that, if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad because we are all born and must die one day. I have only committed the mistake of believing in you, the Americans. (Emphasis added)
Please accept, Excellency, my dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments. Sirik Matak.

Within two weeks, Prince Matak and his family were all executed by the Khmer Rouge and the country was plunged into what became known as “the Killing Fields.”

It is my guess that we will find few allies ready to assist us in future battles as they see our long history of walking away and leaving them to face mutual enemies on their own.