Casualties of war

Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of U.S. combat operations in the sands of Iraq, and to date almost 4,300 brave men and women have made the supreme sacrifice for freedom. That number will probably eclipse the 4,300 plateau by Easter Sunday, but hopefully it won’t reach the 5,000 mark.

The past week ushered in an onslaught of anti-war demonstrations and other visible forms of opposition to the war, which are First Amendment rights granted to each and every American citizen and unlike voting rights can’t be taken away.

Those who are opposed to the war are hoping Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will win the upcoming November presidential election and wave a magic wand and bring all the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, because war is wrong and the troops never should have been sent over there in the first place. John McCain, on the other hand, probably won’t be waving a magic wand, because he’s been in the trenches and spent time in a North Vietnamese prison camp.

Less, we digress and make Presidential endorsements, which we won’t do, the point is this: until the mission is accomplished and the Iraqis are functioning as a democratic society, our troops need to finish what was started five years ago.

The merits of the war are highly debatable, but with more than 4,000 Americans sacrificing their lives for the noble ideas of freedom, peace and self-rule on foreign soil, a failure to accomplish the mission would mean that they gave their all in vain.

Men like Staff Sgt. Christopher Bunda, Staff Sgt. Michael Lee Burbank and Pfc. Charles Hester from Bremerton, or Pfc. Devon Gibbons and Sgt. Corey Aultz of Port Orchard will have given their lives in vain if the mission is not accomplished.

Our bravest and best were drafted into Vietnam, and those veterans deserve far better than they have received for their heroism and valor, especially upon their return to a nation that failed to show them one iota of the gratitude they were due.

The peaceniks of the 21st century haven’t gone as far as their 1960s counterparts who spat upon soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in uniform, but with the increased media coverage and negativity toward the war displayed on the Internet, in many respects their disrespect has been far greater, because it’s been more covert.

Perhaps country legend Merle Haggard put it best in his song, “Fightin’ Side of Me,” which was released in 1970 in response to Vietnam War protesters. Here are the words that say it better than we can as we do our part to support all of our troops:

I hear people talkin’ bad,

About the way we have to live here in this country,

Harpin’ on the wars we fight,

An’ gripin’ ‘bout the way things oughta be.

An’ I don’t mind ‘em switchin’ sides,

An’ standin’ up for things they believe in.

When they’re runnin’ down my country, man,

They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

Yeah, walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

Runnin’ down the way of life,

Our fightin’ men have fought and died to keep.

If you don’t love it, leave it:

Let this song I’m singin’ be a warnin’.

If you’re runnin’ down my country, man,

You’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

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