To my son Tommy,
As always, I try to keep you abreast of current news so when you get these letters you will have a snapshot of what was going on in the greater world around your younger self. There have been many stories about our veterans recently. From VA hospitals to D-day invasions, veterans have been on our televisions and twitter feeds and thus on my mind. One news story that has dominated the headlines recently is about a prisoner exchange. Our country exchanged five Taliban prisoners for one U.S. soldier.
Now everyone is up in arms. Some criticize the move because they believe our country should not negotiate with terrorists or enemies ever. Some criticize because the balance of the negotiation, five high level terrorist, that most certainly will seek revenge, for one low level American soldier, doesn't fit in their sense of equity. Some criticize it because this president did it and anything he does is wrong in their mind. Some criticize it for partisan reasons and say it is all a political football that the other side (whichever side they are not on) is playing a political game. Some criticize it on a legal aspect because it was recently made law that any prisoner transfers from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (aka Gitmo) have to be forewarned by filling out some bureaucratic paperwork. Some criticize it because they question the integrity of this U.S. soldier and wonder if he is a deserter. Most of these critical people have some valid point and most of these critical people, luckily enough, live in the United States and have that right to speak their mind. But here is my feelings on the matter.
We, as a country, do not send our soldiers on suicide missions. We, as a country, value life more than that and that is one of the big differences between us and our enemies. We, as a country, make a promise, a contract, to do our best to bring home each and every person we ask to stand in harm's way for us. We prefer to bring them home alive, but unfortunately that isn't always the case, but we do still try to bring them home. Some may say it is a weakness and a flaw that can be exploited by our enemies, but I believe that this loyalty and the value we put on the life of one of our own is the essence of strength of the American fighting soldier and the American spirit.
So what happens now? What happens if this guy turns out to be a no good, low down, despicable deserter? What happens now that other countries have seen us willing to negotiate? What happens now that five very dangerous men were let free? Will terrorists kidnap more to negotiate exchanges? What message are we, as a country, sending?
I am not sure on what happens now nor certain of the implications of freeing terrorists. I will let the pundits and politicos play their games and play the media and play the citizenry. I will let court-martials and investigations and the system (at least it is our system and not some foreign system) decide the fate, and if necessary the punishment, of our returned soldier. I will pray that our worst fears of increased kidnappings and ransoms and exchanges, or worse yet our fear of the five terrorists orchestrating some immense attack, do not come to pass. But as for the message, personally I think the message I took from the exchange was (and this comes with flag waving nationalism) even our worst is worth five of your best and we will do what it takes to get our soldiers back. To all those who went missing in action, to all those who were prisoners of war, to all those who sacrificed their lives and their loved ones, to all those who served, our country owes you the biggest debt.
Now I wish our administration and our country would send this message over and over again, in all matters through both their words and actions in spite of any political consequences. If they just do it once, or only when it benefits them in the polls, they do not represent my feelings. We have rescue missions and exchanges that are owed to our troops, often right here at home. I am sure there are other prisoners of war and missing in action that we need to help, but we don't even have to go that far to find soldiers that we are obligated to help. It could be the veteran struggling with PTSD down the street, or that homeless man who served in two wars for us, or that young man who just came back and wants an education, or that family that lost their loved one and is just trying to get by. And the only exchanges, for those rescue missions, that we would have to make are found in our priorities and our heart. Let us, as a country, send out a very clear and unequivocal message saying we value all our soldiers, here and abroad, past and present and future, with the utmost and highest regards.
Sincerely with love from your dad,