One thing I love to do in my spare time over the summer is go fishing. Between working, catching up with people I haven't seen and sleeping, there is just nothing more relaxing than kicking back in a chair (or in a johnboat), casting out a line and watching the day go by. I usually don't catch many because, truth be told, I'm a lousy fisherman. But the best part is I have a friend out there with me stinking it up, too.
But for the past year, I haven't touched a rod. You see, since 2001, our country has been at war, in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. For the majority of this time, the country has been split on whether the war is just or not. But something has been lost in that debate: the soldiers fighting the war.
I've had teachers, adult friends and friends of friends sent off to war, most of whom came back. But last year, my fishing buddy, who signed up for the Army right out of high school, was sent off to the Midwest to train for combat. Well, he is now over in Iraq, fighting for my freedom and yours.
I write about this because Nov. 11 was Veterans Day,one of the most important American holidays on the calendar, right up there with Memorial Day and Independence Day. Without veterans, there would be no Memorial Day, because most memorials are in their memory, nor would there be a Fourth of July.
But for some odd reason, our veterans aren't treated with the dignity and respect they've earned. From Veterans Affairs being unable to help them with wartime injuries to the downright barbaric and deplorable conditions found by The Washington Post at Walter Reed, dirt gets treated better than our Iraq War vets.
The best thing we can do for our Iraq War vets is to get them home, give them what they need to get re-acclimated to civilian life and give them a hardy and heartfelt thank you.
It isn't a question of whether you are pro- or anti-war. It is completely and logically possible to be anti-war and pro-solder. Who really wants to put our solders in harm's way? I'm grateful to have them, but I'd love nothing more than to never have to use them. But, since we have solders on dual warfronts, we should support them in their endeavors and pray for a quick homecoming.
One thing is for sure: I will not be casting my line out until my friend, and all his brothers and sisters in arms, are safely reeled back into this boat we call America.