I hate to be the one who brings it up again, but we must sober up from our patriotic euphoria and face the realities of what war does to the body, mind, and soul of those who are trained to kill or be killed. For the past 12 years, we have sent 1.6 million young Americans into the ‘Global War On Terror’ to really avenge the 2,977 murders perpetrated on September 11, 2001. Over 300,000 deaths later (6,500 American soldiers), we are bringing home these young people to standing ovations, but sitting on our hands when it comes to their physical, mental, and spiritual health.
One soldier commits suicide every day. Forty-five percent (45%) of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking compensation for multiple service related injuries and ailments.
We are shocked and appalled that an estimated 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 the previous year which should have been shocking enough to warrant disgust and the demand for change in the military culture.
I got a glimpse of the dilemma on our return flight from a successful interfaith pilgrimage to Grand Canyon a few weeks ago. The plane was nearly full when a muscular and slightly intoxicated soldier boarded late and sat next to one of our female Jewish pilgrims. She said his conversation was friendly but more and more overbearing as the flight progressed towards Atlanta, and as he continued to consume the free beers provided by a patriotic flight attendant. We were in mid-flight when a fellow pilgrim, who happened to be a Muslim women in traditional dress, came up to have a conversation with the Jewish woman, and after she went back to her seat, this soldier erupted: “What is she doing on this plane! These are the people I’m trained to kill! Why are you talking to her? What does that make you?” And he continued ranting until passing out from inebriation, but the episode was deeply disturbing and still haunts her weeks afterwards.
‘Boys will be boys’ is just not acceptable any longer, and it never should have been. Yes, War is Hell, but it is not a license or justification to train, to accommodate, or to be savages or abusers. Like Prophet Abraham, each of us has the capacity to be thrust into the fire without sustaining burns, but to have that protection, we must also stand firmly upon universal principles of faith, goodness, fairness, decency, intelligence, conscience, compassion, and human dignity. These same principles, when afforded to all and embraced by the scarred, can heal the burns that lie beneath the uniform and can cool smoldering hearts, minds, souls, and cultures.
submitted by Imam Plemon T. El-Amin