Even in war, choose life when you can

200px-United_States_POW-MIA_flag.svgThe prisoner exchange and subsequent release of Army POW Beau Bergdahl is unleashing a firestorm of protest.  It’s not surprising, considering the sources of the consternation.

As more and more of the story surrounding his capture by Taliban forces comes to light, I think it’s important that we hold close one simple precept; that even in war when we’re able to, we will choose life.

It’s an easy thing to say but in a world of best intentions coming from every direction, it’s a lot harder to physically accomplish.  Take what the President did as an example.

Instead of being able to celebrate the return home of a comrade-in-arms, the President has had to amend his spiel to ensure that Sgt. Bergdahl is portrayed in the proper light as a possible deserter rather than a returning wartime hero.  This comes on the heels of a story about the soldier’s capture and treatment at the hands of the Taliban, as well as accusations that he aided in training the terrorists in assembling remote controls for bombs.

As both sides seek to politicize his release for their own partisan reasons, I think the ensuing publicity battle boils down to one word and one word only: hero.

America routinely categorizes our military men and women as heroes, especially when they come home.  I can’t argue that point.  Any person who’s willing to place themselves in jeopardy for the sake of the country is definitely a cut above, no doubt about that.

However, when we start to withhold that term of endearment for this reason or that, I think we start to go down a slippery slope; one that opens the door to idol worship of individuals or the military, collectively.

I’m not going to sit here, as a civilian, and categorize Beau Bergdahl as one thing or another; that’s for his peers to do.  Oh, we can weigh in but we should only do so sparingly.   Either way, it shouldn’t prevent us from celebrating his release.  Regardless of what he may or may not have done, he’s still an American with a family in the United States who love and cherish him.

Maybe it’s because I lived through the Viet Nam war and saw firsthand the way returning vets were treated back then.  I’ve also known my share of cats that served “in-country” and trust me, after you’ve walked point for about a year or more, you don’t need some s.o.b. who’s been sitting at home for the last couple of years calling you a baby-killer.  It’s for that reason more so than any other that I’ll always temper anything I say, think or feel about soldiers in war with a huge grain of sodium.

There is nothing so personal as that glass house of war; it affects each man or woman differently.  If any of us had seen half of what Sgt. Bergdahl had seen, I don’t know what we would’ve done.  Still, let me be clear in this.  I’m not going to in any way challenge what the members of his unit are saying.  To do so would disparage the six who died while searching for their comrade.

I’ll leave the name calling to the ones who’ve served with him: they know.  I can only hope that they will soften their anger with empathy for an ally, regardless of how much they think that ally has betrayed them.

In the meantime, wherever possible in this messy conflagration we call war, as a country and as citizens let’s choose life over death and freedom over imprisonment.  Let’s celebrate a soldier’s return, under any circumstances.  Whoever they are or whatever they’ve done, bring them home and only then let the chips fall where they may.

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