Reminder: U.S. is still in 2 wars

Published 9:00 am Monday, May 30, 2011

The veterans who returned from World War II were celebrated and honored.

The veterans who returned from the Korean War were noted and forgotten.

The veterans who returned from the Vietnam War were shunned and scorned.

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The veterans who returned from the Persion Gulf War were applauded and welcomed.

But what about the veterans who return home today from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? How are they being greeted and treated?

Not well enough.

To a large degree, Americans have viewed these wars as ones they don’t want to think about. Soldiers go, then come back.

There’s not any anti-soldier treatment, which is good. There is a moderate level of welcome, which is fair enough. But there aren’t big turnouts, banners and parades.

Blame the national media? Perhaps, but lack of public interest in coverage of the wars is what naturally results in less coverage. It’s the American people who — though they wish the troops well and in spirt they “support” the troops — they aren’t really getting out there and showing interest in more than merely passing forms for the troops. They want to go about their daily lives.

Is it that fatalities are less staggering than, say, Vietnam? There have been about 4,500 U.S. deaths in Iraq and about 1,600 in Afghanistan. Vietnam had 58,000.

Is it that these wars are being paid for on the national credit card? There is no sacrifice on the home front. One recent estimate of the cost of the two wars puts it now at $1.2 trillion. Indeed, the wars have weakened the U.S. economy, so there has been sacrifice, albeit indirectly.

Is it that the wars are so long? The war in Afghanistan is 9 years old, the longest war in U.S. history. The war in Iraq is the third longest and in three months will become the second longest.

Let’s shake off the complacency today on this Memorial Day and go to the ceremonies and honor our war dead.

Then let’s give the soldiers of Albert Lea’s Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 135 Infantry, 34th “Red Bull” Division of the Minnesota National Guard a true patriotic sendoff. These soldiers are going to Kuwait for a year to serve as part of a war. Even if it is a war that is winding down to a close, it still is a war. We should honor them the same.

We encourage Albert Leans to attend the departure ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Albert Lea Armory.