Public opinion polls say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are more unpopular than ever but should this affect how we treat the men and women who return from their service abroad? Lawrence Kaplan, who recalls the way Gulf War veterans were lauded upon their return, laments the lack of a homecoming parade on this Memorial Day: “The Iraq War has been memorialized, but only in makeshift shrines and plaques that, in the case of the brigade combat team (from the First Armored Division) I know best, were erected and paid for by the very soldiers dispatched to fight the war to begin with.”
What’s the Big Idea?
What would a celebration of returning soldiers accomplish beyond the obvious? It need not be all about military honor, says Kaplan: “It would, first and last, do something to bridge the gap between soldier and civilian that not even the distance between Iraq and the United States could measure. The observation that American soldiers inhabited a different world from the Iraqis around them became a numbing cliché, but it was their remove from our own society that really should have unnerved us. In Iraq, the U.S. mission required sacrifice and killing. At home, the U.S. mission required easy certainties and narrative simplicity.”