Dennis Laich and Erik Edstrom — What is the best way for Americans to honor and respect veterans’ sacrifices? There’s no single right answer, but there are plenty of wrong ones – including our “thank you for your service” culture.
“Our country’s military is continually misused, and no amount of pyrotechnics, flag-waving, priority airline boarding, discount nachos, bumper stickers or military flyovers can fix that,” write retired Major General Dennis Laich and Erik Edstrom in USA Today. “For two decades, the U.S. government has knowingly sent its service members to self-perpetuating and self-defeating wars. That’s not patriotism — that’s betrayal.”
America’s veterans are struggling. A survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “have caused mental and emotional health problems in 31% of veterans.” In one of the largest post-9/11 studies, 40% of veterans polled reported that they had considered suicide at least once after joining the military. When soldiers return home, they face “Divorce, alcohol, drugs, depression, endless “zombie” medication to mitigate endless deployments — the whole nine yards.” Priority airline boarding won’t fix that.
Moreover, “thank you for your service culture” often means that young recruits have no idea what they’re signing up for. “Isn’t it fascinating that many teachers would never expose children to graphic images of dead soldiers in classrooms, but those same students can be misled in broad daylight, at schoolhouses turned de facto recruiting stations?” ask Laich and Edstrom. “Consequently, American youths could unwittingly become those very dead bodies.”
One solution, Laich and Edstrom argue, is for the Pentagon and “the rest of America’s war-making machine — the ever-euphemistic defense establishment — to adopt a code consistent with the American Medical Association’s ethics opinion on informed consent.” Rather than averting our eyes to the horrors of war, or using “lobotamous patriotism” to paper over the risks of deployment, we should instead ensure that “everyone who dons a uniform — beginning the moment when minors approach recruiting tables in high school lunchrooms — has informed consent about what they’re actually signing up for.”
Read the full article here.