When Johnny comes marching home again,
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.
- The lyrics to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home
There was no V-E-style celebration.
No screaming headlines.
The war in Iraq ended with barely a whimper.
It speaks volumes not of what some might see as the apparent disregard of the loss of 4,480 American lives, the maiming of 32,000 more and the interrupted lives of hundreds of thousands of citizen-soldiers who stepped forward to serve America. What it does is underscore our collective cavalier attitude toward our security and the protection of our freedoms.
It is not as much as being self-absorbed with Christmas being just days away as it does with the fact we take the role of our Armed Forces in today’s world for granted.
The aberrations have been the times in the 30-plus years since the end of the Vietnam War that we have not worried about war and whether our loved ones would be drafted to fight. The history of civilization is an endless list of conflicts triggered by nationalistic disputes, individuals or groups obsessed with domination, racial and ethnic hatred, or religious wars. Peace - which is what we have for all practical purposes today - is not a normal condition for mankind.
Perhaps the fact this was a war fought by volunteers is why what started as a big bang ended barely registering a thud on either traditional media or social media.
It might have something to do with the fact Johnny isn’t marching home.
We’re still in Afghanistan. There are still 16,000 Marines in Iran guarding American embassies. There are soldiers still based around the Middle East and in hot spots around the globe.
The price of peace enjoyed in conjunction with freedom is high.
It is paid in blood, limbs, and months - and sometimes years - spent in situations where a soldier’s life is on the line.
We should all take time this holiday season to reflect on not just the gifts of life but in the gifts that soldiers have given us throughout the 234 years of this nation’s existence.
There is no such thing as a good war. Ask a soldier. But there are good things that wars have helped safeguard. If you doubt that consider this: We still have the right to worship - or not worship - as we see fit. The same goes for speech, movements, and commerce. While they are not absolute rights - everything has to be tempered in a civilized society - they are nevertheless robust especially when it comes to the masses.
Was prolonged war in Iraq - or Afghanistan for the matter - the right thing to embark upon? It’s a debatable question.
What aren’t debatable are the unselfish sacrifices men and women made to serve this country.
While the political objectives may not pass our collective litmus test it does nothing to take the luster off of what they did.
We should all resolve to respect those sacrifices. Say thanks the next time you come across someone who served America whether it was World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or in times of peace.
Let all of the Johnnies that have marched home know that we appreciate what they have done for all of us.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.