May I express myself about this on-going war? It’s got to be tough just keeping your chin up and not to give up hope to end this war. I have always supported our troops that fought, and got injured and for those who died for our country. My son Kevin served 20 years in the air force and is now retired. He retired just before the Iraq war began thank god. Tell your husband that I feel he has a right to make his decision on not fighting in this war. There must be many young men who feel the same way as your Kevin. Now I must worry that my grandsons might be involved in this war. There will be no end to this I’m afraid, let’s pray a miracle will happen someday. Thanks for listening.
Dear Rose, thank you for writing.
This war is madness there is no doubt. The fact is it is only real for those with a direct connection to it – family serving, serving themselves or those having served in past wars who remember. For so many Americans it’s simply something they hear about on the evening news. I don’t think those Americans will ever fully comprehend the significance of what they have continued to allow to happen – not even when the service members have all come home.
When I walk on post at Ft. Stewart it is always a somber sight to walk past the parade grounds. Sidewalks have been built at intervals through the grass from one side to the other. Every sidewalk is lined on both sides with freshly planted trees, each tree circled by American flags, wrapped with yellow ribbons and marked with an engraved plaque. Each tree represents a soldier from Ft. Stewart who has lost his life in this war–over 300 and counting. Kevin and I have known some of them, and Kevin has been to their memorial services.
Soldiers from Kevin’s unit are friends. They support Kevin’s actions and know that he is not speaking out to disrespect their service- but because they deserve for someone who has walked in their shoes, who understands their position and their conscience to speak for them until they are ready to speak for themselves. Not all soldiers are anti-war – Kevin is not a pacifist. He is “anti imperial war, anti war started for the preservation of oil, anti war whose sole purpose is to further the material wealth of a few selfish, power hungry elite who haven’t a clue about the real humanity of the soldiers who serve.” Most soldiers would not think twice about standing on the frontlines to defend all of us if our lives were truly threatened; Kevin would be there, I would be there – I know your son and grandsons would be as well. But this war is not that case.
It is not so difficult to keep talking – to keep working toward creating a real awareness within the American public who are not directly involved in this war. It is not difficult to continue trying to help them understand the humanity of those who are willing to give so great a sacrifice to serve this country. They deserve it. Kevin deserves it. I do -our children do — as do yours and your grandchildren.
I think the greatest factor in allowing this war to even have started, let alone continue, is that it has been far too easy for too many Americans to lose sight of their own humanity- the real value of their lives, much less the lives of those they will never know. People seem to have forgotten they only get one opportunity to live. People seem to have forgotten life is something worth living, worth facing challenges for, worth taking a stand for — but that stand should be taken by living life well, with a true respect for not only their life but also for the lives of those around them. I believe if people realized that true value – it would not be so easy to accept pulling triggers to end the life of another who might offend them or cause them to be afraid.
Kevin often says we have sterilized war; service members no longer see the faces of those on the other side. If we were to make it once again a human endeavor – not fought with machines, but fought with the hand-to-hand combat of human beings, he believes there would be far less war and far more conscientious thought. He speaks from firsthand experience. It is not so easy to kill someone when you look into their eyes and see someone just like you looking back.
Life is worth the challenge and there are so many good things in America that are worth taking a stand for by appreciating them and living for them rather than believing we should be dying for them. What’s the point in that????
People give up on life too easily. People give up on the commitment they make to preserve life and respect it; some never even make that first commitment. People give up on facing challenges and working through them. People are too willing to sacrifice their standards to take the easy way out of difficulties they are confronted with.
War will be over when people come to realize they have been given a mind, not simply a brain, and their mind is a far more powerful tool than any mechanized weapon they can create when it comes to solving the problems they now believe must be solved at the end of the barrel of a gun.
War will be over when people come to realize that communication about their differences, real conversation which allows them to know each other and understand each other’s frustrations before they reach the point of uncontrollable anger, is a tool of greater significance than the finely honed steel blade of a knife used to take the life of someone whose differences we fear.
War will be over when people come to realize that we perpetuate negative actions by emphasizing all that is negative. We will be working toward achieving real peace when we begin to work on strengthening what is right and just rather than continuing to criticize what is wrong and unjust.
War will be over when people come to realize the value of life, and value their own enough that they are no longer willing to allow others to make decisions on their behalf, where the results are a violation of the sanctity of that life.
War will be over when people come to realize that the lives of others are as significant as their own.
Life doesn’t need a bigger house, a faster car or a larger bank account to be successful. Those are all accoutrements, nice to have and something we all have the right to work for. But we have come to believe they are measures of success in life, while the true measures, a healthy family, a strong community, and a personal appreciation for all we have that does not require material wealth are overlooked. It takes work to maintain the standards such measures demand, and no one seems to want to work that hard.
I’ve seen the loss of war firsthand. I’ve lived the sacrifice, and witnessed the heartache of others who have done and continue to do the same.
I’ve watched tears run down the cheek of a very strong man as we stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier–when the emotions of war and the commitment of his sacrifice, that of his father and of those he served with came together with the realization that so many in America still don’t understand what they have been given.
I’ve watched a man hold his head high as he was led to prison for having the courage to stand for his principles and those he committed to defend–rather than succumb to the intimidation of men of higher rank who feared his deeper understanding of the value of life and the truth in the words he spoke.
It’s not so difficult to keep hoping for peace when you know that life is worth the effort.
War will end when all people have come to understand the value of life–and find a noble defense in living it rather than in a willingness to die for it.
MONICA BENDERMAN is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, a ten-year Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq and a year in prison for his public protest of war and the destruction it causes to civilians and to American military personnel. Please visit their website, www.BendermanDefense.org to learn more.
Kevin and Monica may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org