There may be reasons for excluding our veterans from our national dialogue on who should be Commander-in-chief. None of them are good. Veterans are our most important citizens. They have experienced America and the world as no other Americans have. This, at a time when America’s place in the world is being renegotiated. Our youngest veterans, members of the All-Volunteer Force, were sent to lands neither they, nor those who sent them, knew anything about. We brought them home without reason for “their service,” which we denigrate in staged greetings and “ticker taping” displays absent the Wall Street whose profits soared in their absence. Never the less, our veteran young men and women persevere. They still believe in the America their generation of soldiers sacrificed to create. But they, more than any other Americans, are capable of judging the costs of war to them and all Americans. They, more than any members of generation know what lies ahead for the next generation of soldiers and their families as we perpetuate our war making. If America is just to those who served, our veterans’ voices must be prominent at the electoral table to weigh these costs.
Judging the costs and benefits of our foreign engagements is vitally important, but not as important as remaking America. Our veterans have emerged from ill-considered battlefields, too often scarred in mind and body. Never the less, they bring home the situational awareness, unique skills and leadership unknown to others in their generation. They are national assets. They and their families made the All-Volunteer Force work by creating and sustaining the only vestige of national community remaining in American life. They saved our lives — for something of our choosing other than sharing the distant battlefields we chose for them. All of this makes our veterans indispensable in rebuilding America in the face of our mounting challenges at home as well as abroad. But instead of nurturing the value of their experience America has done its utmost to extinguish it. Today that value languishes in small towns across America, seeks shelter in our urban communities, in back alleys and under bridges. There are no plans to rescue it. There are no plans to account for the horrific personnel decisions made by our civilian and military leaders who participated in the near destruction of a generation of soldiers. There are no plans to create the national dialogue necessary to make our veterans, their families, and America whole.
The young men and women of the world watch the United States of America. They watch the way that the young men and women of our country act and they watch the way our country treats those young Americans who believed in their country enough to sacrifice their lives for their fellow citizens. We tell the young men and women of the world much about how we would treat them when we squander the value of those who “served” America.
• SFC (Retired) John Mikelson is a 26 Year Veteran of the U.S. Army and the Vice President of Midwest Military Outreach an information and referral service for Veterans and their families. Comments: (319) 321-1387; Jmikelson16@gmail.com