First off all, if you haven't thanked a soldier you know (and c'mon, we all know at least one!), then please be sure to do so today. I would also really encourage you to become pen pals with a soldier (www.adoptaplatoon.org is a great website that can set you up with that!).
I was thinking about this whole letter writing thing that I challenged everyone to on my facebook yesterday, and I wanted to make a small point: We hear "Support our Troops!" on an almost daily basis. It gets mundane and we forget what it really means. I think that often when we hear "Support our Troops" we translate that to: "Support our War." So I would like to take a quick moment to clarify the difference for those of you who may not see it. And I'll be honest, I didn't always recognize the difference until I spent some time thinking about it last night.
We don't really know what soldiers see in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his poem War Memoir: Jazz, Don't Listen to it at Your Own Risk, Bob Kaufman says: "We were busy dying on living ground/Busy earning medals, for killing children on deserted/street corners" and then later on says, "Now in those terrible moments, when the dark memories come/The secret moments to which we admit to no one/When guiltily we crawl back in time, reaching away from/ourselves."
I think that Kaufman's poem shows us that there is a lot about what soldiers experience that we simply don't know about it. They see terrible things and sometimes, they have to do terrible things in order to save others. My point is this: We need to let them know that they are not alone in this endeavor. We need to let them know that they are cared for, and not judged for split second decisions. So we do what we can to support them. Maybe that's hugging them and whispering that everything will be okay. Maybe it's sending them cookies and letters. Whatever we do, we need to support our troops. We cannot shut our eyes and ears to the terrible things that happen overseas. We need to be aware of it. And we need to do what we can to help those who have to experience it. This isn't supporting the war, just those who are living in it.
So today, take the time to tell a soldier thank you. Whether or not they went to war, they all signed up for the military knowing that it was possible they could be sent to fight. And that is bravery and courage in and of itself.