Veterans fought for freedom, not politics

Morgan Dowler | Cartoonist

“I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life,” reads Article I of the U.S. armed forces’ Code of Conduct. “I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”

How many of us can honestly say we have ever pledged those words? How many of us have raised our right hand and sworn to sacrifice ourselves in defense of this country and its citizens? The answer is probably not many, so, when it comes to our servicemen and women, they are due our respect.

Many times, when members of the armed services are killed in action, it almost seems like our nation takes a breath before wiping their noble sacrifices away by wielding them in narratives however they can be useful. This is by no means a call to remove their sacrifices from the narrative; rather, it is a call to use their stories in the right way.

As a society, we are too quick to politicize the issues we face, and that politicization causes our focus to shift to the wrong places. When it comes to honoring men and women who dedicate their lives in service to both our nation and our way of life, that must never be the case.

For example, when the Vietnam War ended and was considered a loss, American citizens met those veterans at the airport with frustration, distrust and hatred. Rather than taking their anger to the issues that caused the war, the American people met the soldiers coming home with bitterness. Many veterans remember being spit on, having items thrown at them and having to deal with lacking benefits.

You should never minimize the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces merely because it hurts your agenda, and you should never use their deaths for self-serving gain or to strengthen or advance an argument.

Anyone choosing to conveniently “forget” or “move on” from those who gave their lives in service is showing they have no real gratitude or respect for our military. The honor and respect that is due to a fallen soldier is also rendered hollow when their remembrance is used simply to propagate a narrative or dominate an argument.

It’s time Americans everywhere exhibit a characteristic expected from each and every service member: integrity. Forget politics and self-interest. Those who do not have enough integrity to wipe away their own agenda when honoring our fallen heroes never deserved their respect, service or sacrifice in the first place.

Last week, 13 service members were killed in a terror attack in Afghanistan. Some were younger than the conflict in Afghanistan itself. Some were younger than many students at this university. But for every single one of them, their oath became a reality.

Forget your agenda. It doesn’t matter who you blame. Honor those brave men and women with purity of intent.

To the 13 service members who paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan, we are grateful for your sacrifice and will remember your legacy of valor.

To every soldier, airman, sailor, marine, coast guardsman and guardian who has raised their right hand and vowed to defend this nation with their life, we thank you for your dedication and service.