Going to war is not heroic

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The conflating of the terms “veteran” and “hero” is disturbing.

Today for the first time I looked at “Faces of the Fallen,” the Washington Post’s gallery of dead military members; it runs every so often, but I’ve never really looked at it before.  Of the 45 deceased soldiers pictured, 12 died in non-combat situations, or a least were not an enemy target.  The twelve included three whose cause of death was disease or heart attack, a possible suicide, a helicopter crash and a murder by another guy in uniform.  So they died while in the military, but maybe not “serving” the country.  My sample is limited to this newspaper page; I understand that may taint my analysis.

But if you read the papers you know the death while on-duty is not the only measure of service.  And people trained to kill in  war — even if they may have had some vaguely heroic acts on the record — continue dying after their discharge.  Veterans have high rates of homelessness, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental struggles, and acting out violently as they were trained.

I avoid militaristic ties in my life.  I looked the other way when a pilot said that Pearl Harbor was in view out the plane window; I ride a longer route on my bike to evade the hideously martial WWII memorial.  (I am aware of some exceptions:  I have visited The Lincoln Cottage, which is on the grounds of a military retirement home.)

Today I rode along Military Road in Washington, DC, on my way to a peaceful walk with a friend in Rock Creek Park.  I wish that could be the most warlike thing any of us would do.  The real war heroes are the ones whose words and actions oppose it.

Photo above of a dovecote in St. Fagan’s National History Museum, Wales, UK, by me, September 2014.

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2 responses to “Going to war is not heroic

  1. Staying Frosty

    Am not sure if this is pro or anti veteran. My thoughts are that any person who volunteers for service in the time of war is to commended. Actual combat service has nothing to do with their “hero” status. The point is that not everyone has the heart to enter the military and accept the fact that he or she may die while serving.

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