This past week I have been studying the different ways Americans support our troops and their families, and what I have found is that we are highly naïve to the reality of the situation. Through reading articles and listening to a presentation by my professor’s husband, retired SMSgt Rex Temple my eyes were opened to the ignorance that I will admit I had.
I sometimes fall asleep to the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on FX. Last night I saw a rerun “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops” Season 5, Episode 7 and it summed up perfectly the things I had been learning. Now I am not quoting the show to have intellectual merit, some may easily be offended by the content of the episode (as is to be expected from the show in general.) But it reinforces the message, and mocks the ignorance and the ideas that Americans have of what it means to support our troops. They spoke of “losing our patriotism” and “showing them the love,” all of which resulted in throwing a wrestling match in their honor.
On a more serious note The Washington Post published an article that discusses American’s feelings of sympathy and sorrow for our troops. (The article can be read here.) We as Americans are so distant from the situation that we often do not know how to feel. There is so much classified information and the majority of us must rely on what we see on television for all of our information regarding the war and our armed forces. Whatever our feelings or emotions are toward the war and our troops fighting in it I would recommend speaking with a few soldiers to try to frame an accurate viewpoint.
I am fortunate that I was able to do just that. Retired SMSgt Rex Temple came to speak with us and to tell us a little about his time in Afghanistan. He was honest about his experience and even shared that a young boy told him he hated Americans “because the Mullah said I had to.” (A Mullah is the religious leader in different villages.) But among the shocking stories, I got to hear and see the kindness that his troop shared with civilians over there. Sure there is a lot of combat and not all missions are humanitarian-based, but our soldiers are not just over there fighting. Our troops are serving as ambassadors to our nation, some in particular spending their own money and small amounts of free time to improve conditions and the lives of others.
Whether we strongly support and are in awe of our troops or feel pity about their experiences overseas, it is evident that not many of us know exactly how to react. I know I feel disconnected from the war. I often get confused and don’t understand all the happenings. Rex Temple stated “we take our freedoms for granted,” and I agree. There is so much unknown about the country where many of our fellow citizens spend years risking their lives trying to save and protect. As such we tend to block out the war and we hear only what the major news broadcasts show us. No matter how much I hear of the brutal killings and hazardous zones, I will never forget the excitement on the childrens’ faces as the soldiers greeted them with simple school supplies and a chance at a better life.