I wrote this essay back in 2005. I was still in the military then, and quite disgusted with the "support" I received with regards to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2007 I left the military after ten years of service and have never looked back. This message is meant for those who "support the troops", and if you support bringing them home then you are not one of the people I accuse with this article. By posting it here I'm probably "preaching to the choir" but after finding it recently when going through old papers I really felt strongly about publishing it.
Every time I go out, I see magnetic ribbons in yellow, or red white and blue, or worst of all desert camouflage, bearing the logo "support our troops", with the proceeds for the purchase of that ribbon going to a factory in China. Sometimes the ribbon also includes the image of a cross, incorporating the Christian message of peace into the ribbon's message of war.
As one of the troops that you are supporting with that ribbon, I have to say I do not want and I do not need your support. I know what your support means, and your support is unwelcome. It is possible that your support means that you want to keep me out of harm’s way, that I can stay with my family. I very much want to stay at home with my wife, to watch my infant son grow up, and I do not want to die in a pointless conflict started by politicians. I joined the military to defend the constitution, and if I must fight I would prefer that be the reason.
Yes, it is possible I would fight for that reason, but that is not what your support means. Your support means that I have to go fight for political causes. The more you support me, the more likely it is that I am going to be sent to Iraq to be shot and killed by those who do not want me there. Your support means that I am more likely to die.
Because you support me, it means that I may spend at least six months, possibly several years, apart from my wife. I will not see my son grow up because you support me. I will not be there to see his first steps or hear his first words because you support me. Because you support them, my fellow troops who have completed their contractual obligations cannot be released from their service contracts, and because you support me that might happen to me too.
Because you support me, I am more likely to get killed.
Because you support me my son would grow up without a father.
Because you support me my wife could become an untimely young widow.
Because you support me I may be sent over there to be killed.
Because you supported others and they were sent over and killed. You say you do not want the deaths from your support to be in vain. You want to honor their deaths by supporting the yet more deaths.
If your support kills me, you will honor me by supporting other troops while they are sent over there to die, so that my death would not be considered vain. You will support me by creating more widows and more orphans.
If your support kills me, which is what you ask for when you say you support me, then the way I want my death honored is by ensuring there are no more deaths to honor my death.
That is what your support means. That is why I do not want any of your so-called support.
There is only one way to truly support me. You can make sure my wife does not become a widow. You can make sure my son does not become an orphan. You can support me only by keeping me out of harm’s way. If you want to support the mission, you can still show support for the troops by taking the place of the troop. Until then, you can keep your support.