Serve your Country
Why is it that, in America at least, the phrase “serve your country” is so tightly tied to the military? Why is it that our soldiers are said to be serving our country, but our charity workers do not receive the same treatment? I acknowledge, of course, that charity workers do not often face the same risk of death that soldiers must face, but I still feel that there is an imbalance. If an American is about to be killed by a foreign foe, and a soldier saves him, then that soldier is a hero. But if an American is about to die from starvation, and a charity worker feeds him, he does not often receive the same level of praise. We do not give out medals to our charity workers. We do not give them special benefits. We do not honor them the way we honor soldiers, with events on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and Independence Day. We talk of cutting the budget for food programs, but the budget for warfare is always increasing.
Of course, in other ways, soldiers are greatly dishonored by the country that supposedly loves them. Soldiers are made to fight in unnecessary wars, and in these wars they suffer and die, their lives tragically wasted. More than fifty thousand of our soldiers died in Vietnam, and for what? Other wars, though less severe, have also been unnecessary or even counterproductive. Perhaps our efforts to honor the soldiers are motivated in part by the need to assuage our collective guilt for allowing such needless wars to occur. There is nothing wrong with placing flowers at a soldier’s grave, but we should carefully consider the policies that led him to that grave in the first place.
I do not wish to dishonor soldiers who fight for good reasons and preserve human liberty. But foreign foes are not the only threat to human welfare, and I wish that we gave more honor to those who fight against hunger, disease and other forms of evil.