To the Editors:
Next Monday, Wilton veterans will lead the Memorial Day parade with pride and camaraderie, thus preserving the legacy of courageous, selfless service shared with American veterans who have gone before them. It is important these veterans, many in their mid-60s, others older, and fewer of them every year, be regarded not as senior citizens in faded uniforms, but as a symbol of America’s armed forces at large and its vital connection to our society.
Following World War II, when most families had at least one member in uniform, political and journalistic references were supportive and admiring. Americans were familiar with the military and respected it. Military service was considered a rite of passage for young Americans. However, during the Vietnam War this perception changed, leaving in its wake a culture that admires but can’t connect with the military. Whereas Ernie Pyle described the bravery of troops in World War II, American media a generation later reveled in denouncing our military until the average grunt in Vietnam felt little but despair. A war they had won by almost any measure was lost.
Deployed soldiers remark that America doesn’t care how they are doing because they are untouched by war and therefore far less likely to care about it. While military members are acutely aware of the sacrifices they and their families make, they take pride in withstanding hardships that would break their contemporaries. This warrior ethos, a bond between members comprised of honor, duty, courage, loyalty, and self-sacrifice, depends on the connection of the military to society. Service members need to see themselves as part of a community sustaining itself through “sacred trust” and a covenant binding them to one another and to the society they serve.
America has now been at war for 16 years, but the public has not. Over two generations have come of age in Wilton since the last draftee was inducted and few have volunteered. Given the level of respect enjoyed by the military, one would think young Americans would show more interest in serving their country. Those enticed by the politician’s siren song of a “free” college education could earn it with a stint in the military. While enhancing one’s commercial value in civilian life, the satisfaction of rising above self and meeting the challenge is something a veteran never regrets.
We are today fighting enemies using a perverted interpretation of religion to incite violence. Their global reach is a catastrophe of colossal scale. The naiveté of the previous administration has laid the groundwork for future conflicts that few can contemplate and it will fall on the shoulders of American servicemen to stop the threat to all of us. Wilton’s children, currently in school, could eventually be called upon to bear the brunt. That is why our military must preserve its warrior ethos while becoming more connected to the public, in whose name they fight.
Please follow the parade to Hillside Cemetery in respect for those who have fallen on our behalf.
Michael Graupner
Signal HIll, May 22