Supporting the troops does matter

August 11, 2007|By JEFFREY GRILLS

Our son is one of the 1,300 Maryland National Guard soldiers who will be serving our country. His battalion will be in Iraq for a year. Two months ago, I received an e-mail from a member of our church. She said, "Our family is praying daily for your son, his parents, his girlfriend and his fellow soldiers."

That genuine comment, along with the many strangers, acquaintances and friends to whom we have talked since his deployment, continually brings to light the stark differences we have in our country, and in our personal lives, regarding the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An old acquaintance of mine is a self-proclaimed "pacifist." He is also a very old hippie. When our paths recently crossed after a decade, he asked about our son. He shook his head and said, "What do you want me to say? I can't believe it. Why would he do such a thing?"


A businessman in our area, an immigrant, was incredulous that my wife and I would "allow our son to be in the military."

A person at my place of employment, when learning about our son's deployment, asked if we "knew" that this was going to happen. The underlying question was, "Did the present administration pull a fast one on you?"

There are some people who immediately reply with a wrinkled brow, tilted heads, the old reliable wincing eyes or a pained expression.

The biggest worries that some of these people face in their lives are whether or not the air-conditioning works, the freshness of the organic produce at the grocery, whether someone will spoil the ending of the Harry Potter book for them or if will they have time each day to work out at the gym.

My wife was approached by a television reporter the day after our son was deployed with the slanted question: "Most people think the Iraq war is a mistake and disagree with our country's policy. What do you think?"

Unfortunately, it is often human nature to focus on the negative. For every one of these people who have invested in America's defeat or the demoralizing of our soldiers and citizenry, there are scores of people who have supported our son and our family. They have lifted him, the mission he is to undertake and they have offered encouragement to his parents. They have written words of encouragement, shared old memories with him and (gasp) prayed for him. These people understand the world. They understand there is evil. They understand that the world is not sanitary.

To those people, we are eternally thankful.

At the farewell ceremony in Frederick, when the three platoons of soldiers from the Frederick Maryland National Guard unit said farewell to their loved ones to prepare to fight for our country, the chaplain prayed. He did not cloak his prayer with political correctness. He prayed for victory. He prayed for our country. He prayed for our leaders. He prayed for our troops. It was not perfunctory. It was a powerful prayer that might make some people with little or no belief, or those Christians who think we should avoid "offending" others, a bit uncomfortable.

When was the last time you heard a member of the clergy pray for victory?

I would like to offer some free advice regarding social graces to those of you in our society who pretend to "support our soldiers, but don't "support the mission," when a neighbor or relative or friends chooses to serve our country.

Be quiet.

Do not be an accomplice to some of our elected officials and their sidekicks in the media, who seek to impugn our soldiers and our citizens at every turn for their own advancement and power. You might think you are not demoralizing our troops, but you are.

When it comes to discussing the deployment of a loved one overseas, don't couch your sniveling little political position with rolling eyes, uninformed and totally short-sighted comments or fake concern.

Try saying "thanks." Try asking if there is anything you can do. Ask for an address and mail them a phone card or some beef jerky. I suggest that you say, "I hope you and your fellow soldiers are able to accomplish your mission and come home safely."

Try to understand the concept of the price that is paid for freedom. Better yet, try to understand freedom and what it means. In spite of our country's warts, try to understand how special our country is - and what is necessary to protect it.

No one has done more for the freedom of the world than the American soldier.

I have attended two workshops provided by the Maryland National Guard and the Family Readiness Group to prepare the soldiers and their families for the upcoming deployment. I have attended two farewell ceremonies for different units throughout Maryland. At all of these events, there was little fanfare. There was no bravado. There was no chest thumping. There was a calm resolve in the faces and the hearts of these soldiers.

They behaved like men and women. The parents, spouses and friends behaved like men and women. They know what they face.

For those of you who are critics and cynics, take a lesson from my friend's e-mail and from her heart. Try praying. Try being supportive. Try understanding that what you spout from your tongue has meaning and affects the morale of our soldiers, and ultimately, the future of our country.

Jeffrey Grills


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