WHAT AMERICA NEEDS TO KNOW |
August 09, 2013
Name: Matt Gallagher
Returned from: Iraq
What does America need to know about its new veterans? That we aren’t one voice, one experience, one memory, one preconceived notion fulfilled that can be stapled to our country’s heels like Peter Pan’s shadow? That we’re both varied and small? That 2.5 million of us have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, a number that’s roughly the population of tiny, frozen Latvia, a number that only begins to hint at the separation between the postmodern empire and its legions?
Does history, the teacher of life according to Cicero, yield answers? How did a nation two generations removed from pushing back the onslaught of fascism get here? How did a society one generation removed from the great scar of Vietnam arrive here?
What happened to the America we woke up to on September 12, unified, defiant and proud?
Is it because in an all-volunteer force, it’s someone else’s sons and daughters who fight?
Shouldn’t supporting the troops also mean hiring them? Does the skittish corporal who managed $500,000 worth of equipment in a forgotten outpost of hell get hired, or just the officer with the plastic smile and business degree?
What’s the biggest divide between those who have served and those who haven’t? Other than getting shot at in strange lands? Recognizing that we’re as responsible for the divide as much as civilians are? That we know insulating ourselves in vet squads and platoons bridges nothing, but do it nonetheless?
That our own veterans’ movement has already splintered because of money and egos and a VA far too interested in public relations’ doublespeak and shooting messengers?
What of war’s end?
What of the future? Will our voices and experiences and memories mean anything when these questions arise yet again?