The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that “only the dead have seen the end of war.” It was a warning that this most primitive of human conditions would bedevil mankind as long as human communities existed. And his words have turned out to be prophetic.
At its essence, war demands both sacrifice and service. The initial sacrifice is always made by warriors and their families. But service is also the responsibility of the warrior.
Warriors serve to protect our way of life and are willing to sacrifice all that they are or ever will be, to protect us. They make peace with dying because it is part of their commitment to serve something larger than themselves. Upon their return, however, it is the role of society to serve the warrior. The service we can, and must provide, is to help them fully return home. The failure to do so has devastating consequences. The veteran suicide rate of over 20 a day makes this conclusion inescapable.
Society also loses, as these gifted men and women will not be assuming the community and family leadership roles where they are so desperately needed. Few are braver or more ‘other-centered’ than men and women who have served in the military and we suffer as a culture without these values in our midst.
The most sacred bond a warrior has is with his or her comrades. The bond is simple. As one Marine said to me, “For a warrior…NO one EVER gets left behind. If someone’s lost, we go find them. If they are wounded, we go get them and if they’re killed… we bring them back home with us’. We don’t relate to all of this ‘I or me’. We think us. A warrior alone is in trouble…as are all human beings. We seem to forget that a lot these days.”
Another veteran once told me that he was sometimes on patrol with another soldier with whom he completely disagreed on almost everything. When I asked him how he felt about that, he said, “It didn’t matter. I had his back and he had mine. I knew that was the bottom line…all that counted. We were fellow soldiers and fellow citizens of the same country. We stood for the same things. When it came down to it, I knew he’d protect me with his life. And I knew he could count on me to do the same for him. If one of us didn’t make it, we’d do all we could to bring the other guy back.”
As a community, we share the same bond with these Warriors. The mission of our communities is the same; that none of our warriors get left behind. We need to bring them all home.
There are lots of ways to do this…none of which involve buying something on sale. Go to the parade in NYC. Take in the countless offerings of veteran artists, writers, performers and poets around the city and state. Welcome a veteran home…no matter how long it’s been since he or she returned to our country.
Founder, The Equus Effect