"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."
The man who was, arguably, our greatest president, set the standard for how we should respect and treat those who have fought, first to bring us freedom and then, to ensure that we retain it. What is now sadly interesting is how we glamorize some things, and ignore others. For sure, a good deal of the blame belongs to the media but that doesn't excuse us, we the people, for ignoring things of importance . . . like respecting our military and our veterans.
Among the sadly interesting occurrences within the last few weeks has been the media attention about California attorney Judy Clark. This women gained a reputation for defending people like Ted Kaczynski, the unibomber, who killed three people and wounded twenty three others, Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympics bomber, one killed and 111 wounded, and Jared Laughner, the man who shot and killed six people and wounded 12 others, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Ms. Clark's specialty it seems is plea bargaining to prevent the possibility of her clients receiving the death penalty. While I have never been an advocate for the death penalty, I must admit that I do get bothered by the "celebrity attorneys" who step in to give an edge to the most heinous killers. Of course it's the media that provides Ms. Clark and the killers with their celebrity status.
And when a marginal professional basketball player nearing the end of his career announces he is gay, the print and electronic media simply can't get enough of the story. From what I could gather, Jason Collins is a fine person, so this is not meant to disparage him in any way. It is a matter of comparison . . . how the media creates stardom for some while ignoring others who are truly deserving of attention.
For example . . .
I have always admired how the Israeli military has committed itself to preserving and protecting its citizens and its soldiers. Two incidents stand out. The first is the Israeli Defense Force commandos' night time raid on Entebbe. After the 2,500 mile trip, 100 commandos rescued 102 Israeli citizens who had been held hostage on a hi-jacked Air France plane. Three hostages died, as did 45 Ugandan soldiers.
Another incident concerns Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit. He was captured by Hamas and held prisoner for almost five and a half years. During that time, the Israeli citizens and soldiers never gave up hope. They held prayer vigils. They made prisoner exchange offers. Finally the Israeli offer of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli Corporal was accepted. Jubilation reigned in Israel . . . they never gave up on life.
For a moment, think about the power of the press. It can make a marginal NBA player a star because he was the first player to announce that he is gay. It can push aside the horror of the Boston Marathon bomber's acts in order to tell us that he will have a famous celebrity attorney. While, in Israel, the media can happily announce the rescue of hostages and the joy of a nation upon the return of one of their soldiers.
But in the United States, where we expect freedom to ring out, we hear nary a word about one of our soldiers held captive by al-Qaeda. Our media, with its incredible power to inform, and to influence, sits idle while one of our soldiers, Private First Class (now Sergeant) Bowe Bergdahl, has been held prisoner in Afghanistan since June of 2009. Where is our commando rescue raid? Where is our prisoner negotiation exchange package?
My friend Bob Jones, himself a twice wounded veteran, offered me this citation from Bill Casey. Casey, who performed meritoriously in Europe for the OSS during WW II, and later served as Director of the CIA during the Reagan Administration. When asked of the POW's left behind at the end of the Vietnam War, Casey stated,"We know who they are and where they are and that is where they are going to stay until there is a groundswell of support to bring them home". Our Prisoner of War, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl needs that groundswell of support . . . now!
Isn't it time for our media to put pressure on our politicians to insist on rescuing Bergdahl? Isn't it time that we again start to refer to our captured military as "Prisoners of War", and not simply as "missing, captured". Isn't it time that we, you and me, begin pestering our politicians, Shea-Porter (202-225-5456), Kuster (202-225-5206), Shaheen (202-224-2841), and Ayotte (202-224-3324), to do the right thing? Isn't it time that every veterans group in the country pushed all the political buttons needed to rescue our soldier?
What would George Washington do? What would the Israeli's do? And, what will you do?
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)