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Proud to wear the sticker

Dan Smith
Vail CO, Colorado

Unlike some, I feel rather proud of those stickers that say “Support Our Troops.” To me that means respecting their commitment and sacrifice, not doing a John Kerry and considering them stupid, mislead or deluded.

Dana Jurich’s column, “Support our war veterans” in the Saturday, March 10 edition of the paper, was apparently based on her view that since she doesn’t support the war in Iraq, no other thinking person could possibly do so either. Following her logic, anyone who would join the military and fight in Iraq must be either misled or stupid.

Passing for a moment on what ever minimal level of life experience has led her to that hasty conclusion, it simply doesn’t match with reality. People join the military for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the more common ones are a career, an adventure outside of Podunk, U.S.A., money for college or, strange as it may sound, simple patriotism. She portrays military recruiters as vultures preying on the unsuspecting and disadvantaged. In doing so, she makes the assumption that only the naive or stupid could ever be suckered into the military.

At least one study indicates Dana is totally wrong. A 2005 analysis released by the Heritage Foundation found, among other things, that military recruits come from areas with incomes above the U.S. average. Further, youth from wealthy areas continue to volunteer for duty despite increased risk.

Additionally, 98 percent of those volunteering for the military were high school graduates, compared to a national average of 75 percent. Clearly, both Dana and John Kerry got it wrong. It isn’t the poor and stupid volunteering to serve their country; it may be, as it always has been in the past, our best.

Beyond her bad logic and poorer taste, her timing frankly sucked. Regardless of her political opinions, running a column like this during the same week that Vail Resorts has brought many wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to Vail is the cheapest of theatrics. It is about as close as you can come to sporting a bumper sticker that says, “I Don’t Support Our Stupid Troops.” However that would be a much more honest and respectable approach than hiding her distaste for warriors in a body guard of lies and half truths.

A couple of her quotes make the case in point. First, “these clueless kids don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are truly fighting for.” I doubt that highly. They are fighting for the man or woman on their left and right.They are fighting for their country because their county asked them.

Dana’s second most serious untruth is, “They arrive home to a country that has all but forgotten them.” That is about as far from the truth as you can get. The people of the United States appear to have learned at least one lesson from Vietnam ” don’t ever forget those who fought. In Dallas, for example, every plane load of returning troops is met by a group of civilians who thank them for their service. In Vail, I’ve seen many a veteran on the slopes thanked for their service by those who are skiing with them ” many are veterans with missing limbs or with limited mobility.

These veterans are no more, “a stranger in a strange land” (Ms. Jurich needs to apologize to the late Robert Heinlein for stealing this one), than any previous group of veterans. In the 271 wars this nation has fought since 1776, all veterans, whether from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam or Iraq/Afghanistan, return changed. It is hard not to change in a combat environment.

But veterans have and hopefully always will be one of the backbones of American society ” probably because they paid something to be a part of that society.

That may be a payment that Ms. Jurich is unwilling to acknowledge, let alone make herself.

Dan Smith is a local Vietnam veteran who teaches government and political science at Colorado Mountain College. His opinions are decidedly his own.


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