One Warrior’s Perspective
If we accept the fact that all returning Veterans having survived the brutalities of War in Afghanistan and Iraq have now become New and Different individuals, and that they have now graced our shores as those seeking shelter and acceptance to the United States for the first time, then we must extend to them the very same American traditions and opportunities as expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. I have said this many times…No One returns from War unchanged, No One.
Let us consider their youth, the childhood days of our Veterans as a brief visit to America, as compared to so many of our newer, foreign born citizens; immigrants spending a time to explore this country, then deciding to stay and perhaps choosing even to defend it. The difference is that for Warriors in their youth, they decided to give up their youth and their very lives if need be, to protect a belief they may as yet not fully understand. At least at 18 years of age, I didn’t. Liberty was a conviction I felt in principle, but was not yet fully able to express at the time.
The Declaration of Independence states:
“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Have you ever asked yourself “What is Freedom?” What is inherent in Freedom that we would choose to die for it? What is It that millions of our young men and women so willingly sign their lives away to protect? Well now, let’s take a look at a Warrior’s view of just that.
Isn’t Freedom the Right to be treated equally, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, political opinion, moral convictions or sexual preference? Doesn’t Freedom mean we have the Right to be treated equally and accepted, whether we are crippled, or diseased or healthy? Does it not matter if we are employed or jobless and homeless; living in a trailer, the back of a car; or living upscale in Beverly Hills?
Whether we do or don’t fit into the standard of “norm”, being so called “good”, voting, tax-paying citizens, we still absolutely do have the Right to condemn and criticize corruption, greed and injustice as we see it. It doesn’t matter if it’s World Banks, the Military-Industrial Complex, International Corporate Strategies, Organized Religions or trashing our environment and its inhabitants. If we are Free, not only can we do this, it is our Responsibility to do this.
And by the way, the definition of Freedom is not buying a new car every few years, and living in a posh home with over-abundance; nor is it taking more than you need while others have less than they need. I will leave that judgment call up to you. But enjoying the “perks” of a society does not mean you stick your head in the sand, pretending your country doesn’t need your help, ignoring the truth and action you need to be involved in. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King: “Silence is Betrayal”. Think about it.
Freedom does mean that it is our Right, our Responsibility to take issue with “that which we believe to be against our beliefs and the welfare of the innocent”. And if such action is done so without harming others, then there is no fear of harsh consequences; such as being locked up in the Super-Max Prison in Colorado under the Patriot Act, or being put on “The List” by the Department of Homeland Security, or being threatened by any other by department of our government. That is not Free Speech. That is not allowing Peaceful Freedom of Expression in action and words.
In America, you have the Freedom to express yourself as you believe it should be done. That means you have the Right to be a pro-animal-rights vegetarian or a livestock-rancher-meat-eater; a pro-lifer anti-abortionist or a right-to-choose pro-abortionist; anti-government or pro-government, neo-Nazi or new-age Equal Rights Peace advocate. We are all in the same basket together. We all live in the same country together. And as long as you don’t try to exercise your power over another or attempt to change someone else’s beliefs by coercion, extortion, or violence, you’re allowed to express your Freedom as you so choose. That’s America. That’s worth defending.
Freedom is very simple: It means not being taken advantage of. That means we cannot be forced against our wills by another person, corporate organization, government, religion or doctrine that attempts to suppress or control our personal or national destiny or our personal and National Right to Life. Freedom means that we control our personal, creative vision for our future, our Right to become who we choose to be, regardless of how others judge our decision. Again, it is as long as our decision does not harm or exploit another person, animal or our environment.
America is America because of our diversity. Except for the American Indians, all other groups came from somewhere else in the last 518 years. We all came from immigrants at one point or another in our family ancestry. There are citizens in America from every other country on this planet. Do we all get along? Hell No. But that’s America. Do we all agree? Absolutely Not! But that’s what America is all about. Can we express our personal views, our beliefs in our own fashion? Yes! And that’s what makes America great! Our Rule of Law protects the Freedom of each and every citizen!
Is it American tradition to turn people away because they’re different, or they don’t seem to fit in? No. When we said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” we felt it and we meant it. A lot of us still do.
Americans first tolerate, then adapt and eventually become accustomed to and accepting of the diversity and customs of other cultures. It’s been that way with every new group of immigrants since we all began this American Journey together.
So then, in considering the Rights of all citizens, of all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, customs and beliefs, how then do we not accept our young men and women who have so willingly served to protect this Nation?
Are they different now? Yes. Are they Americans who gave all they had and were wounded by the brutalities of War? Yes. Do we hope they simply fade into the homeless population so we can turn our heads while speeding by after our shopping spree, never looking into their pleading eyes? Absolutely not!
Do we pretend War doesn’t exist? I don’t think that’s possible for us Warriors. And for many civilians, that notion may be a case of denial. But as a Warrior, my perspective is a little different. As far as Afghanistan and Iraq go, I don’t pretend to understand all the “Whys” of either War. The fact is, we’re there and we’ll most likely be there for some time to come. But it seems to me that if we as Americans allow politicians to start Wars, then the very least politicians can do, is to take care of our Warriors who fight in those Wars. Are elected representatives not the guardians of freedom? Was that not so clearly stated July 4th, 1776?
Yes! Freedom is worth dying for. And in the purest sense, Freedom is what America stands for. Freedom is what makes us proud to be Americans. And as Americans we must remain ever vigilant to guard it and to protect it.
We must also ensure with all of our collective strength that our young Warriors, our men and women, the children of this great Nation are part of that future, of that Freedom. Not only have they faced death on the battlefield, they have seen the darkest sides of Humanity. Heroes all, no question. But along with being witness to the atrocities of War, they have also lived through the Nobility of the Human Spirit, the very best in us all.
Through their baptism in blood, our Warriors have been given the Gifts of War: They may now judge, not harshly but fairly; they hold all life as sacred, never to be taken without just cause, but in so doing maintaining a reverence for the dead; they have truly learned the meaning of unconditional love worth dying for, setting the standard for all future relationships. And finally, they have learned the true meaning of Honor, Friendship, Love and Trust.
I ask you then: Who better to lead this Nation into the future, than those who fought to defend it? Are they not the true Guardians of Freedom? And who among us could possibly become better leaders and teachers to set the course of our destiny, the vision of our great nation?
Our Warriors now living by the Code of Honor defend the Freedom that we all hold as sacred. It is their “God Given Right” to be treated equally. It is their Right to be welcomed home, acknowledged for their sacrifice and to then be given the Freedom of life expression they so deserve. Indeed, they have earned that Right.
This decision is up to you, to all Americans citizens who stand in silent anticipation of an uncertain future. Look into your hearts and choose with Wisdom. The future of our Nation depends upon it.
Respectfully submitted by:
Sgt. Andrew Brandi, United States Marine Corps