Photo Credit - U.S. Army
We sign them up. Promises of bright futures, benefits, bonuses, a military that will cherish and be there for them.
They get their uniforms, their weapons, their training on how to kill and not be killed.
We send them to war. MRE's. Thrills. Tragedies. Boredom. Chill. Sweat. Camaraderie. Dirt. Always dirt. Care packages of toothpaste and deodorant. They volunteer.
We tear them from their families, and then war and the system chew them up and spit them out. Changed men and women walk off the planes. Back to something that used to be home.
Banners wave. Welcome homes and red, white and blue and little children running into multicammed fathers and mothers. Smiles all round.
They go home to places they don't fit anymore and into the streets of America that offer cold sidewalks and averted gazes. We equip them to fight our battles, but discard them when they need help to fight their own.
Without their uniforms, they are just another body who can't quite get it together.
But that body stood up, stood in the way, absorbed the stress, the sweat, the fears, the horrors, the loneliness, for teenagers and mothers and fathers and business men and women and caseworkers and secretaries and fast food workers and salespeople and salon owners and pig farmers and little girls just learning to walk and little boys running across playgrounds and couples at the altar and mountain climbing tourists and professors and songwriters and builders and anyone in America who has ever had a dream. They stood between us and . . .
They - hardened, hurting, proud, confused, independent and sometimes broken servicemembers - stood between Americans and fanatic murderers who cried "Death! Death to you all!"
Dignity. Respect. Appreciation.