, Port Arthur, Texas


December 20, 2011

As Iraq War ends, we should remember our soldiers

PORT ARTHUR — At the end of World War II the Port Arthur News published a headline with letters at least four inches tall proclaiming “War Ends!” The contrast with last week’s official ceremonies marking the end of the War in Iraq is stark. Local newspapers marked the event with a brief story. Even national news telecasts could hardly break away from the Jerry Sandusky sex saga or whether Newt topped Mitt in the polls to give much attention to the end of a war that lasted more than nine years.

It is worth noting, however, that the men and women who served all volunteered to put their lives in peril. It’s been many years since anyone joined the military in the United States without knowing they were probably going to spend one, two, three or more tours in combat zones. Yet the services by and large meet their recruitment goals and new recruits become part of the best trained and equipped fighting force in history.

These volunteers, mostly middle class or working poor, learn to operate the most highly technological equipment on the planet. They carry out logistics that would boggle the military minds of the greatest generals of just decades ago. The serve not only as soldiers, but as ambassadors attempting to win allegiances in places that have only mistrust for us, and succeeding better than the seasoned diplomats who so often fail to understand cultures from the other side of the world.

They are coming home from Iraq now, many in time to be with their families for the holidays. But 4,484 of America’s sons and daughters will not be spending this holiday season with their families. They left their lives in Iraq because they volunteered for our military and were carrying out the mission they were sent there to do. The war is finally over but a price was paid for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Thousands of American families will be missing a loved one as they gather around the tree this Christmas. Tens of thousands more will be dealing with broken bodies or injured minds. They must not be forgotten simply because they war ended without fanfare or parades.

Our soldiers fought the war in Iraq to the best ending they could bring to a campaign that was flawed from the beginning because of decisions made by the politicians who sent them there. They have given the people of Iraq an opportunity to fashion a government for themselves after a decade of turmoil and untold losses. Now is the time for us to give our soldiers an opportunity to build a new life for themselves.

Congress should make sure that those who volunteered to serve their country have the opportunities that those who fought in World War II and Korea had at an education. We should make sure that these veterans and returning soldiers today have the health care, for both body and mind, that they need and deserve. If we can pay for a top-notch health plan for those in Congress, then surely we can pay for a top-notch health plan for those who volunteer to put their lives on the line in service of their country.

The end of the Iraq War may not have made big headlines, but we need to remember the people we sent over there and the way they carried out their mission. They did what we asked and now it is our turn to show we value their sacrifices.

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