Hollywood has, for the last thirty years or so, made military members the butts of jokes – they’re either crazy Vietnam vets (Rambo) or corrupt institutionalists (The Hulk). But most of all, they’re victims (see Platoon). They’re victims of uncaring governments, of obtuse generals, of racist politicians.
Such portrayal couldn’t be further from the truth. Since the end of the draft, America’s military men and women have courageously volunteered to defend our country; they have put themselves in harm’s way for a higher purpose than themselves. They aren’t selfish or stupid – or dupes, as John Kerry suggested (“You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t you get stuck in Iraq.”). They are heroes. As Orwell put it, “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” And today’s soldiers have trained themselves to be rough and ready; they haven’t been coerced or forced. If the highest sacrifice is the sacrifice by choice, these men and women make the highest sacrifice every day.