Since reading a blog in Stars & Stripes by Terri Barnes of SpouseCalls, a blog titled “There is a War On,” I’ve been listening and reading and haven’t heard the candidates even mention the war.
I wish my mom and dad were still alive. I’d love to ask them if they remember the rhetoric around the presidential election of 1944. Except of course my dad was in Germany busy fighting in the war…he wouldn’t have heard the speeches. I have to believe that in the midst of World War II, a war that our whole country was to some extent involved in, the candidates had to be talking about their plans to end war and future policies about war.
This week, for the first time since 1952, the Associated Press reported, Mitt Romney accepted a Republican nomination for president without mentioning the topic of war at all. While “our country” is at war! How is that possible?
At least the Democrats chose to honor a military mom (#562 of things to love about the military…military parents), a Blue Star mom with four children serving, no less. At least Michelle Obama talked about her admiration of military families and military members and wounded warriors. She and Jill Biden have impacted programs for those families under the Joining Forces initiative (#822 in our book).
I’m writing this blog with a deadline prior to President Obama’s acceptance speech. My prediction? He will praise our troops and will talk about the war.
But that isn’t enough for me.
As we get ready to vote for the person who will be our next Commander in Chief, here’s what I want to say to whoever gets the job.
You’ll take office with a Congress that has fewer members than ever who have served in the military, only 21.8% of the total membership, the continuation of a decades-long downward trend. One reason that’s troubling is that veterans are just the ones who could bring things Congress really needs right now, that our country really needs right now, things that we love about military life, things like #924 Teamwork, #945 Understanding the concept of “mission first,” #950, the Core Values, from integrity to service before self to honor, courage and commitment, and #897 Service, selfless service, serving together for a common cause, or serving together for the greater good.
The other reason the low service record is troubling is you lose the deep knowledge of war and consequences that come with war experience.
The fewer than one percent of our country’s citizens who serve have chosen to devote themselves to duty. They have agreed to extreme sacrifice, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, if necessary for our country. But that is the key word: “necessary.”
I wish that our next Commander in Chief and every member of Congress were required to read books like Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like to Go to War, Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds, Melissa Seligman’s The Day After He Left for Iraq, and other books that bring the reality of war and its aftermath to life.
I wish that our Commander in Chief and every member of Congress were required to enact decisions about war with two criteria firmly in mind. 1. Any time our country goes to war, it will be because of a “compelling national interest,” not a compelling political interest or a compelling financial interest. 2. Any time our country goes to war, our whole country will go to war in a sense, through shared sacrifice, from a war tax to alternative service.
And oh yes, any time our country goes to war, you have to face it and talk about it for as long as it goes on. You don’t get to pretend it isn’t happening.
PS To all of my fellow veterans, military members, military spouses and voting-age military children: VOTE. And to any of our military members OCONUS during the elections: Take full advantage of #788, Federal Voting Assistance Program, voting help for uniformed Service members, their families and other citizens living outside the United States (www.fvap.gov.)