Condemn the war, but not the warrior

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Wayne Gray, Columnist

We should better empathize with those who serve in our military while still holding our government responsible for committing to overseas conflicts. By supporting measures that reduce defense spending we can better support our service members and veterans during and after their service.

People join the military for any number of reasons. Perhaps they believe it is the patriotic thing to do, or maybe they have a family and just need a job. Many families have military service traditions. The prospect of a free education can be an alluring one as well. 

Whatever reason someone may have for joining the military, they are making a great sacrifice. That sacrifice should be recognized as a service to our country, not just as a service of national goals. We can criticize a nation for going to war, while still showing support for those who volunteer to fight in them.

Governments declare war to serve their national interests, often at the cost of others. Patriotic citizens join the military to serve their country, often at the cost of themselves. We should recognize service members and veterans as patriots and condemn our government for selfishly pursuing national interests abroad.

Patriotism aside, military service is a job. A job that provides wages, housing, health insurance, training and education benefits. For many, a job that provides all of that is hard to come by. As Americans we should ensure those in power make decisions that not only benefit the nation but also those who serve.

The Constitution establishes Congress as the sole authority to declare war. The president also has power to use military force. Both have the power to establish policies that benefit service members and veterans. Our elected leaders are responsible for the well being of our service members and that means we are responsible as well.

We should better use our powers as taxpayers and voters to elect officials that make decisions not in favor of war, but in favor of service members’ care. We currently spend twice as much on defense than we do on veteran affairs. 

The U.S. military budget request for the 2023 fiscal year is $773 billion while the Department of Veteran Affairs budget request for the 2023 fiscal year is $301.4 billion.  

We should reduce the amount we spend on defense and instead use those funds on social programs for veterans so that their needs are better met. The money that we do spend on defense should be better allocated in ways that benefit service members rather than large defense contractors. Service members carry the burden with them even after their service.

With service members and veteran suicides occurring at alarming rates, it is obvious that we are failing at addressing their needs. A soldier is more likely to die by their own hand than by the hand of an enemy in combat.

According to the United Service Organizations, 30,177 service members and veterans have died by suicide in the last 20 years, compared to the 7,057 service members who died in combat during that same time. 

If you know a service member or veteran, you should reach out and let them know you care. Support organizations like the USO by donating if you can. Vote for elected officials that run on platforms that prioritize social programs instead of military spending.