Supporting Our Troops

Almost daily I pass a store or another car on the road that has hung a banner or posted a bumper sticker that reads “We Support Our Troops.”  This gesture, though often innocent enough, disappoints me deeply.  The reason it bothers me is not because I do not support our troops – quite the opposite is true – but rather because most folks do not recognize at all what freedom realistically demands in the way of social support.

Most of the businesses and stores that display these banners do so with the best of intentions I have no doubt.  But there is an undeniable commercial benefit that is derived from open displays of patriotism like this that tarnishes the credibility of the display at least partially, even if it was not entirely commercially motivated.  With individual citizens, there is a certain amount of unity and camaraderie that is derived from such displays but the acts are as simplistic in application as to be nearly insignificant in the big picture.  There is no sacrifice, no principled struggle, and no hard decisions that are being made by the individual or society as a whole that actually supports the soldiers’ existence or mission.  While there are many wonderful people and organizations in this country that actively engage in providing support services, assistance, and the like to soldiers, veterans, and their families, the vast majority of folks simply place a sticker on their bumper or in their rear window and think that their part is done.

My point is this – the modern American soldier swears out an oath upon entering his or her chosen life path, and it begins with the words “I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” The single most important and immediate concern of the American soldier, by his or her own affirmation, is the defense of the Constitution rather than the defense of things, such as the nation, other nations, people, etc.  This is an important distinction that must be understood by all if we are to truly assist the soldier in his or her quest of the defense of freedom.

This distinction conveys a certain message of sacrifice that implies that the Constitution and the freedoms, limitations, rights, and protections documented therein are far more important to our nation than military or terror threats domestic or abroad.  But when a soldier is deployed, potentially sacrificing his/her life, limbs, or future quality of life, that same soldier cannot be expected to protect our Constitution domestically as well.  This is where we, the citizenry, should come in – where the phrase “We Support Our Troops” has tangible meaning.

If we choose not to exercise our rights, if we allow them to be sacrificed to all manner of disingenuous and/or nefarious political (or other) agendas, if we fail to do the right thing constitutionally simply because it is the harder approach, then we are not supporting our troops but in fact undermining their own reason for existing while they simultaneously and valiantly struggled for our benefit.  If soldiers are expected to sacrifice personal safety in their defense of the Constitution, why should the citizenry not be expected to as well?  Are their collective or individual lives worth more than a non-veteran citizen?  I think not, but that is the message we send (intentionally or not) when we allow our rights and freedoms to be attacked in the disingenuous name of safety or fear (e.g., the USA PATRIOT Act, current suspensions of Habeas Corpus, increased anti-gun legislation efforts, etc.).  The uncomfortable reality is that freedom and safety are entirely antithetical to each other; to fully achieve one, elements of the other must be sacrificed.  While safety is important in a civilized society it must never come at the expense of the Constitution, and that is the backbone of the American soldier’s existence.

The bumper stickers we see that state “Freedom Isn’t Free” are true but freedom does not just exist at the expense of the lives and limbs of soldiers fighting abroad, as those stickers would suggest.  It also requires a citizenry that intends to remain free to sacrifice some amount of safety at times, and take the nearly always difficult road directed by principle to defend those freedoms and rights even when they present vulnerabilities for evil to exploit.

When considering whether or not we, as a society, are faithfully supporting our troops consider this quote by Benjamin Franklin (also inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty):  “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  There is certainly nothing wrong with outwardly displaying our love and affection for our fighting men and women but we cannot leave it at that if we truly wish to honor their sacrifice.

Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America, and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.


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  1. #1 by Kristian on March 25, 2011 - 6:11 AM

    Well said. I have never looked at it from that angle, but you make some very good points.

    As I look at the sacrifices my grandparents’ generation as a nation made during WWII (rationing, victory gardens, buying war bonds, etc), it shows me how little the majority of our country does to actually support the United States as an entity.

    You’ve inspired me to do a bit more than I already do. Thank you.

    • #2 by The Observer on March 25, 2011 - 2:44 PM

      Thank you, Kristian, for your kind words. I am grateful that my post has inspired you and hope to continue to do so.

  2. #3 by Packrat on March 27, 2011 - 6:05 AM

    Too many times, so called priveleges are given to those who should not have them.

    A federal judge ruled that tents with heater, air conditioning were not suitable living conditions when Army cadets at Ft Sill had gravel floors and a roll up tent flap.


    • #4 by Packrat on March 29, 2011 - 8:09 PM

      Addition to comment , those tents with a/c were for Texas convicts while the only “crime ” the cadets committed was raising their right hand and saying “I do solemnly swear….”

  3. #5 by Scogin on March 28, 2011 - 9:59 AM

    It sure beats the hell out of getting spit on at airports and called baby-killer and worse. We weren’t allowed to wear our uniforms in transit from one duty station to another back in the early/mid ’70s because of all the crap people would accuse you of. Just seeing those bumper stickers makes me, for one, feel alot better about this country now. Our military gets lots of respect now days, lots more than it used to get.

    • #6 by The Observer on March 28, 2011 - 5:17 PM

      I don’t disagree with you. Criticizing the government or our politicians for the country’s involvement in Vietnam – or any other country for that matter – is one thing, but directing that disenfranchisement toward our nation’s servicemen and women (who do not even get a direct voice in where, when, or why they go anywhere) is another. It’s entirely uncalled for and misplaced. Those displays of vitriolic hatred – from many of whom were self-professed opponents of war, violence, and generally uncivilized behavior ironically enough – remain an embarrassment to our nation’s history without doubt. Fortunately, I think, our society has learned from these shameful displays of the past. As you say, our soldiers today are generally treated with respect and, in many cases, even reverence despite the relative unpopularity of the war in Iraq and, to an arguably lesser degree, our broad military presence around the world.

      My overarching point is not that the bumper stickers are bad in any way, but simply that, in the big picture, our soldiers do not serve to see such trinkets on display. They serve to defend freedom for themselves and their loved ones, and when we, as a society, fail to preserve those very same freedoms at home in their stead we are doing them a great disservice, regardless of whether or not we have a bumper sticker, pin, ribbon, or other supportive ornament on display. As a veteran myself, I would gladly have traded all the supportive bumper stickers in the world to have been at least marginally secure in the belief that the folks left behind were protecting my constitutional rights and freedoms with as much dedication and determination as I and my brothers-in-arms were defending their freedoms while deployed abroad.

      The old saying is quite true; where the military is concerned “all gave some, some gave all.” But when discussing the American populace “many gave none” is tragically appropriate as well. If we are to be and remain a truly free society all must come to the table with the willingness to do what it takes, relative to their roles, to preserve liberty for all. After all, why should less than 10% of the populace be the only ones vested in freedom?

  4. #7 by rmadere on March 29, 2011 - 6:21 AM

    I couldn’t agree more! I put my time, talent and treasure into supporting the troops. I challenge everyone else to do the same. Mouthing platitudes is nice, but actions speak louder than our words.

    We need to do more than say we support the troops. we need to give them some assistance, here on the home-front, that will let them stop worrying about their familes and get their jobs done safely. Consider joining the BPO Elks Army of Hope and cut the grass or fix the sink for the family of a deployed soldier.

    The Observer, I hope you don’t mind, but I reblogged this post on my my blog, The Eagle’s Nest. I’m also adding you to my Blog Roll.

    • #8 by The Observer on March 29, 2011 - 4:51 PM

      Thank you for the kind words. I don’t mind at all… In fact, I’m rather flattered.

  5. #9 by Gandalf on April 29, 2011 - 6:40 PM

    I remember from my history classes the words of Patrick Henry “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”. NUFF SAID.

  1. Supporting Our Troops (via giftoffreedom) « The Eagle's Nest
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  3. Happy Veterans’ Day, America |

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