A Veteran's View of "Supporting our Troops"

I write as a member of Veterans for Peace and as an individual veteran, as a citizen, as a father, who grieves with a nation that is losing its sons and daughters to war. I write to bear public witness against a war that is ravaging the towns of Maine and the cities of Iraq.

But I do so with no sense of self-righteousness. I do so as a man struggling to reconcile his sympathy for the troops with his patriotic obligation to oppose a war that is wrong. I do so, however, with no doubt in my mind that I should speak out. I will not accept this government's attempts to silence me on the grounds that speaking out against war somehow reflects a lack of support for the troops. To claim that a veteran, a troop, if you will, doesn't "support the troops" is ludicrous. In fact, it is more than ludicrous — it is insulting and arrogant.

My support comes from my experience. I know what it means to step forward and to take the oath of military service. I support each young person's right to make that choice for himself or herself. I know that each of these young people in uniform today has, by making that choice, entered into a sacred contract with our government, with the citizens of this country, to risk her or his life in our nation's defense. I also know that the other party to this contract — the United States government — has an equally sacred obligation: to ask these young soldiers to go into battle only if the safety of our nation is truly threatened. Both parties acknowledge that this contract is founded on a basis of faith and mutual trust.