Honoring Our Soldiers

[click for picture credit: JohnnyJet]
Most airlines in the United States allow soldiers in uniform to board along with first class. Clicking on the photo above brings us to a blog post by a traveler who routinely gives up his first class upgrades to soldiers.

We also have a general culture of venerating our soldiers and veterans. We thank them for their service, in public, whenever we can. The video below is an example.

Everyone in the United States, left, right, center, rich, poor, loves their soldiers and honors them. [Except, ironically, the V.A. which for some unexplained reason has waiting lists of years to help wounded veterans with their health problems – but that’s another story.]

I believe we in the United States are unique in the developed world with the way we treat our soldiers. We honor them. That is definitely not the case in other countries. I have first-hand experience with Germany. From a distance, and from popular culture, mostly based on the sick memories of World War II and Hitler’s excesses, one might think that Germans also hold their soldiers in high regard. But that is not so.

I should know. I wore the uniform of the German Air Force for four years as a young man. A German soldier was then, and I would expect this to be still true now, just another “worker.” Being in the military is a job, and often one that is associated with lack of education, lack of ambition and drive, even sometimes laziness. “Oh, you’re in the service?” The implication is that you don’t know what else to do, or don’t have any skills for a “real job.” Nobody would give up an airline seat for a soldier. Nobody would ever walk up to a soldier and thank him for his service. Nobody would applaud a traveling soldier.

Part of that may have to do with the fact that since 1945, German soldiers, with very, very few exceptions, haven’t seen battle. Germans don’t send their young people overseas to fight the fights of other countries. They don’t play world policeman. Being a grunt in the German military means you have a tedious and boring job of going through the motions, and counting the days left in your service. There is no danger of being sent to Iraq or any other place where bullets might fly and you might be killed or maimed in the service of your nation.

I have had casual contact with soldiers of France, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and have observed similar attitudes.

Being a soldier in the United States is associated with honor, courage, service, and duty – and rightly so. I can’t think of any other country that is willing to commit its youth just like we do, for other people’s causes.

Our soldiers deserve and have earned the veneration. I am not sure, however, if our politicians are making the right decisions and choices on their backs.

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