Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Commentary: Support for the Troops



SOUTHWEST ASIA, Nov. 25, 2008 -- One of the most surprising and humbling aspects of my current deployment to this air base in Southwest Asia has been the support from people and organizations back home.

I used to cringe at the saying "We support the troops." I believed it was used by many as a shield when they in fact did not support the mission, but it is no longer a phrase that causes me to recoil.

To the contrary, it is abundantly clear to me that the people and organizations back home that provide support to the troops are not only sincere in their efforts, but also care deeply about our country and its success.

The amount of support over the last couple of months that all of us have personally witnessed is tremendous. Whether it was grade school children and their classes writing letters to servicemembers, churches providing care packages and spiritual support, comedians giving all of us the opportunity to have a real belly laugh, steak houses cooking up familiar flavors and providing a good meal or musical entertainers such as Bo Bice visiting to thank us for our service, the support from our country and its citizens has been unwavering.

Moreover, the support has provided servicemembers an avenue of escape from the reality of where they are for a brief moment, or the chance to reflect on what they are doing in the larger scheme of history and world events.

Whether or not America has always been so generous and supportive of its servicemembers is open for debate, but having spoken to veterans of many different wars suggest, for the most part American citizens and organizations maintain a tradition of generous support to servicemembers.

However, in comparison to my experience during my deployment to operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the support today far exceeds my experience from then. At that time, support was stalwart from the average citizen, but from my perspective was limited from others, especially the entertainment industry.

I must concede; however, that to compare the support from then and now is probably unfair. The experience in those operations was so quick and decisive that the opportunity to display sustained support was extremely limited.

As such, the most convincing evidence that today's support from home is selfless, true and unique is that the support has been sustained, steady and strong for over five long years, with absolutely no signs of letting up. That support from American citizens and organizations alike is truly amazing.

For all the supporters back home, I extend a sincere, heartfelt "thank you" for all you do. Your kind gestures provide smiles, warmth and memories of a lifetime for all servicemembers. Moreover, please know that the support you provide does indeed make a difference to those that serve.

If you could see the faces of the servicemembers, the young and the not so young alike, when they are on the receiving end of your tremendous support, you would have no doubt that you have made a qualitative difference in the lives you have touched. Rest assured that you have carried the torch of "support for the troops" proudly, and we will never forget what you have done.

(Commentary by Lt. Col. Carl Reed, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing judge advocate.)

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