Stay Focused On Soldiering

by Colonel Dan


The Cowboy Chronicle

March  2005


A lot’s been said about the political and military aspects of this current war—about the “rightness” of it all and about the “wrongness” of it all and particularly about the military conduct of it all.  Boiled down however, it pretty much stems from one political side of the aisle trying to differentiate themselves from the other and gain some political capital in the process. 

Quite honestly, I have very little faith in or patience with politicians anyway but those trying to selfishly gain partisan advantage with their irresponsible, “made for TV” sound bite statements, that place soldiers at increased risk, really infuriate me.  And make no mistake, this disingenuous venom about how immoral the war is, how the commanders lie and cover up, how horrible American military actions are especially when misplaced members of the myopic media films our enemy being killed and how our troops ought to be subject to some bogus U.N. war crimes court, doesn’t help our sons and daughters at all.  In a very real sense, it only serves to increase the dangers they face each day in two important ways.  First, such talk is clearly demoralizing to our GIs and secondly, it further emboldens our enemy when he interprets this as a strategic division in American resolve that can be taken advantage of on the battlefield.  Don’t forget, North Viet Nam made effective strategic use of a similar divisive circumstance just a generation ago.

My son is one of many thousands of soldiers currently serving America in Iraq.  He is a cavalry scout stationed north of Baghdad running convoy security missions in that area.  He came home to Texas on leave last summer and asked me what I thought about the political and moral “rightness” and “wrongness” of this war.  Was he over there for nothing, was this mission worth it and was it politically moral?  After hearing snippets from pandering politicians, this young soldier was just expressing normal concerns about the situation, the support he had from home, the leadership in Washington etc.  All natural questions I’ve heard before from so many soldiers stretching back to the Viet Nam era when soldiers then faced similar condemnation.

The advice I gave my son was exactly the same advice I gave to other soldiers over the years and it was this:

“Sergeant Mike, don’t give one thought about anything political concerning this war.  Don’t listen to politicians, left or right, Democrat or Republican, don’t listen to CNN (which they have access to over there), and don’t concern yourself with any moral opinions you may hear from anyone—to include those who have expressed indignant outrage about the “immorality” of this war from the pulpit of your own church.  Your only concern right now is to focus on the business of soldiering, stay alert, put into practice all that you’ve been trained to do at the tactical level, stay honorable in your actions as a soldier and above all, watch out for that guy on your left and right.  Beyond that, there is absolutely NOTHING else you need to think about.”

This is America and I realize there is a right to express differing opinions about the course this nation takes and I cherish that right—but only if that right is exercised sincerely with America’s best interest at heart.  However, it always angers me when those who disagree politically with why our nation is at war describe it as ‘immoral’ and then transfer that condemnation of immorality onto the backs of our young soldiers—as was clearly the case during Viet Nam. 

Sadly, these critics haven’t a clue about the real impact such sentiments have on those dedicated uniformed Americans whose lives are put in the balance every day.  They haven’t a clue because 99% of those who throw such politically postured barbs never wore the uniform and probably never stepped foot in a combat zone.  This especially disgusts me however when I hear such public condemnation from those who did wear the uniform and should know very well the impact.

Such irresponsible, nonstop ranting from some of America’s political leaders and their cronies when we have American troops in the field is inexcusable because from what I’ve seen, the basis of those statements stems not from any sincere concern for America.  Rather, it stems primarily from a selfish interest in personal political gain—the mental welfare of our troops at a time when they must remain at their sharpest, America’s national welfare which ultimately depends on those troops and even the indisputable facts of 9-11 be damned.

But I don’t intend this as an admonishment targeted at a few petty politicians.  More importantly, it’s meant to pass along advice I found helpful to a much higher and more sincere class of American than politicians—the American GI. Politics be damned. 

Be assured, I’m certainly not a “hawk at any cost” American—the vast majority of soldiers are not war mongers given they have the most to lose in the event of war. But America has many of her treasured children now fighting this one and they need to see signs of our support. Please let them know they have that support and that it’s truly unshakable. 

These gestures can range from something as simple as sincere letters of gratitude, which are extremely meaningful for soldiers, to what Calgary Kate, Mescalero and the 5 Dogs Club along with their many dedicated contributors have been doing these past months in sending our GIs big love-filled packages from home they can share with their buddies.

Finally and to the point, please encourage them to stay 100% focused on soldiering and concerned with nothing else; we can talk politics after they come home.

Just the view from my saddle…

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