Remember soldiers' spiritual sacrifices

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007

One thing we never hear, but which needs to be said, is an apology to our soldiers for sending them to kill, die or be disabled in a misguided war in Iraq.

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We are all responsible for this war and its effects. When will we tell the soldiers we're sorry?

Our country's divisions over this war won't be healed until we can admit this was all a huge mistake. That includes an admission from the president, the vice president and all the others who led us into the war.

Something else needs to be said about the sacrifices our troops make, but it's surely unpopular to say: Soldiers make a spiritual sacrifice by willingly learning to kill, by agreeing to kill when ordered, and by actually killing other human beings. This is true even if a soldier believes a war is necessary or justified.

Our soldiers sacrifice their innocence by participating in war, and they make a moral sacrifice by entering into a contract to kill whomever our commander in chief identifies as "the enemy" without regard to the soldiers' own views about the rightness or wrongness of the cause.

When soldiers abdicate to their military or political superiors the human duty to make responsible moral judgments and to accept individual moral responsibility for their actions, they are sacrificing parts of their soul and their morality.

On Memorial Day, we need to recognize the individual moral and spiritual sacrifices our troops have made. It is not enough to honor their courage and heroism and to mourn the lives lost or diminished. We must grieve these other real but invisible losses by our men and women in the military.

And we should all spend part of this holiday contemplating our own moral responsibility for what we have wrought by supporting, or even just allowing, our government leaders to initiate and continue the war in Iraq.

Ed Hein

Veteran, U.S. Army 1971-1974


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