Last Sunday we marked the 100th anniversary since the end of the first World War. I always attend a service, and watch much of the old film footage in documentaries on TV. Have things about society’s understanding and appreciation for the military that serves and protects that very society, changed much over the last 100 years? I think so.
I remember my father going on UN peacekeeping missions in the 1970s. There was not much TV coverage that I recall about these missions (or maybe I just assumed society understood – I did live a sheltered military base brat life in those days.) My brother served in the Gulf War. Again, I don’t remember much impact on civilian life here at home, other than for the insular military community itself. No water cooler talk about the war at my civilian workplace. I don’t think my coworkers even knew I had a brother serving and protecting over there. Then later, when my husband was sent to Alert to do his own away duties, I do remember that non-military friends and family understood little about such a duty that our military performed, still serving and protecting. I spent a lot of time explaining to civilian co-workers where Alert even was, much less why we had military stationed there. Life was pretty good in my lifetime for most of society, really, which is a good thing. It says a lot that society need not think anymore about how much our military serves and protects. Like an invisible shield. Like a good referee in a hockey game; if they’re doing a good job, maybe it’s OK not to notice them.
And now my own son is serving in a UN mission. In Mali. No, not Maui, not Bali. It is not a peacekeeping mission. It is not a vacation, or cool, or a wonderful opportunity to see Africa. (All of these comments have been suggested to me.) It is a dangerous war zone, and our country is doing a small part to help out there. (I won’t discuss the political reasoning – the military serves and protects at the pleasure of the civilian governing body, as it should.)
All to say, fellow military friends, you already understand. Civilian friends, thank you for thanking the military for their service. And please, keep an eye out for the reasons we have a military. Support your military with your democratic power to be informed and vote accordingly. Take a moment to understand what they really do to serve and protect.