Perhaps fight is the wrong word. It's not like we're talking about bar brawls or boxing matches. But that's what soldiers do, they go off to the far reaches of the world and fight. There are a lot of stereotypes that go with soldiers, these have existed for centuries. In recent years however the common perspective has changes a bit. At the height of the Vietnam War the returning soldiers were looked down on and often called "baby killers" or worse. The public had a right to be angry about the war and the political climate at the time, but the anger was misdirected. The people making the decisions, not the people following the orders were to blame.
The same is true today, but now the public seems to recognize the difference at least. Our soldiers return with honor, with their heads held high. Many questions haunt every soldier returning from Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else they have fought. Why were we sent here? Did we do any good? Why did I survive and not my friends? Unfortunately there is no cookie cutter answer to put everyone at ease and make the wounds heal faster. Every person has to deal with what they've seen, lived through, or barely survived on their own.
The only common truth I have been able to find in all the war movies, books, interviews, documentaries and most importantly from spending time over there talking to the soldiers is that when the shit hits the fan, it's about taking care of the person next to you, that their life is more important than your own. This simple thought has been the driving force behind every heroic act on the field of battle since the history of war. We might look back at battles and call them glorious, or think that they made decisions so that history would remember them, but I have a hard time swallowing that pill. Even the story of the 300 at Thermopylae, Leonidas took his soldiers out there not to be written about in some history book, but because if he didn't than Xerxes would have enslaved his people or worse. He put his people first and his own life second.
For our soldiers returning from conflicts around the world, and for the families and friends of those who don't return; this photo is for you. Know that for every sacrifice something good was done. Know that you did a job that few would be able to do. Know that you did it not because you wanted to do it, but because it needed to be done. Take pride in your uniform, take pride in your sacrifices, or the sacrifices of your son, daughter, husband or wife. Even if the general public seems to have forgotten about these wars, know that we are grateful for the peaceful nights sleep that goes with having soldiers bearing arms to protect us and those who can't protect themselves around the world.
Each dog tag is fallen member of the 101st Airborne who gave their life in Iraq.
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