Suzette Martinez Standring: Soldiers and sacrifices
This time of year is set aside to remember soldiers who gave their lives as the ultimate offering to freedom. We are mindful of what such losses mean to families forced to let go of loved ones much too soon.
At Memorial Day services, we bow our heads to remember the fallen. Included in our prayers are the men and women who still serve in the military or have completed their duty. For many, their sacrifices will not end.
They are the soldiers who are parents and missed precious moments of children being born or taking their first steps. Many are the newly married, away for extended periods when love is so potent and fresh. Others were called to duty despite the powerful obligations at home: debts, sick relatives, careers or the demands of raising children. Their service is selfless, given the voluntary nature of the military.
What soldiers are asked to do in defense of our country is part of their sacrifice. They are required to kill if necessary. One does not question military hierarchy, and soldiers are trained to follow orders.
Those who have not served can imagine little of the personal toll. Though humanity’s history is steeped in war, it is not the nature of individuals to kill. To fear that possibility or to have that experience carries a steep price.
John Donnelly, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, offered these statistics that bear out the burdens undertaken by soldiers:
- In 2010, there were 434 suicides by active-duty soldiers, compared with 462 deaths in combat, excluding accidents and illness.
- In 2009, there were 381 suicides, which exceeded deaths in battle.
To live daily facing a kill-or-be-killed potential is traumatic, a far, far cry from the swaggering indifference of action-movie soldiers. Real-life men and women return from duty marked with emotional scars.
A 2010 report, “U.S. Military Casualty Statistics,” prepared by the Congressional Research Service gave these numbers:
- The U.S. Army carried the largest percentage of soldiers (67 percent) with post traumatic stress disorder.
Totals for the period between 2000 and 2010:
- Deployed soldiers with PTSD: 66,935
- Non-deployed soldiers with PTSD: 21,784
- Traumatic-brain injuries: A total of 178,876 soldiers suffer conditions ranging from mild to severe.
- Amputations: 1,621 soldiers affected
For what do I pray?
I pray for our government to have the wisdom and discernment when putting our greatest treasure –– American men and women –– at risk. To serve in the military is an action of belief in our American ideals. Despite polemics and politics, one cannot argue the brave heart of the individual who serves our country.
As Memorial Day rolls toward Flag Day and onward to Independence Day, I am mindful of the debt owed to men and women who have endured separation from loved ones, the uncertainty of assignments and the fear and trauma of encounters.
The greatness of their sacrifice is what we memorialize annually. That they will find peace and healing in the aftermath of service is my daily prayer.
Email Suzette Standring:email@example.com She is the TV host of “It’s All Write With Suzette” a program on the craft of writing. Visit her website to watch episodes www.readsuzette.com