But what of those whom we have fought for? Not all affected by war have worn a uniform. We urge Americans to keep that in mind this weekend.
While we know what sacrifices our soldiers who have served in those conflicts have made, there have no doubt been hardships and sacrifices made by the average citizen in Iraq, Afghanistan or other countries where we have sent troops into harm’s way.
As the noted diplomat Richard Engel said in the quote above, the Middle East is not a place where people want to be right now. Who can blame them?
We’ve had a hand in creating their plight, that is why we continue to offer a hand to those in need across the Middle East. There can be any number of ways to assist, from welcoming refugees and donating to relief agencies to just about any other act that offers comfort to those who have suffered.
That is why it’s important to celebrate our soldiers, and equally important to understand what they have been fighting for, especially in the past three decades. It’s not enough to say we have defeated Saddam Hussein or Al Qaida or Isis. Yes, continuing the fight against those and other radical groups is necessary, and the men and women who answer the call to arms deserve all the recognition they have earned. Yes, there have been terrorists who have committed atrocities here and in many other places around the world, and who continue to do so. And many of them have pledged allegiance to radical groups based in the Middle East. We must continue to be vigilant and continue to oppose them wherever and whenever we can. But there are millions of average people there who just want to go about their lives, much like we do here.
We have to remember that those millions of nameless men, women, and children are the ones our soldiers have fought to protect, to free, to give them hope for a better life.
Has it been accomplished? Not really. In the past three decades, there has been an almost constant war waged across the Middle East. At this point there is no end in sight, and some might argue that end is getting further and further away.
There is no doubt that we owe gratitude to our veterans who have fought and laid down their lives in the Middle East, as we do for those who have fought and died in all wars for this country.
But we also owe compassion and understanding to those we have fought for, and to those we have fought alongside. We should also feel compassion and understand the sacrifices made by the local people who have lived or continue to live in a war zone. They, too, have endured hardship, no doubt about that. No doubt, too, that many have witnessed unspeakable acts of savagery, and gallant acts of bravery.
Please take the time this Memorial Day to honor all who have sacrificed, uniformed or not, in the fight for freedom.