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Support for the Troops

A UNIFYING theme among Americans ever since the first troops shipped out to the Gulf has been support for the men and women serving there. Opinions have diverged over shifts in policy, but everyone has appreciated the commitment of the people on the ground, in the air, and on the water. One lesson well learned from the bitterness of Vietnam is that those who serve can't be allowed to feel the country has forsaken them - either when they're on duty overseas or when they return.

Thousands of people are currently involved in making sure the troops know the home front is thinking of them. Support groups, like Operation Mustard Seed, based in Albany, N.Y., have spontaneously sprung up around the country. They start from one parent's concern about a son or daughter and quickly mushroom into organizations capable of reaching hundreds of servicepeople in the Gulf with letters and packages. Some messages have even reached the Gulf through computer link-ups.

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Not only are the needs of soldiers and sailors abroad met, but their families back home are visited by friends and clergy who can comfort and counsel.

A major part of the outpouring of concern for the troops comes through the nation's schoolrooms. Children from early elementary age through high school are participating in projects to write individuals serving in the Gulf. Their expressions of support often take the form of ``thanks for your bravery.'' Nothing very elaborate, but heartening to people - often not that much older than their ``pen pals'' - who may be on the verge of battle.

One can hold profound doubts about the wisdom of current tactics - or even about the whole undertaking in the Gulf - while still admiring the country's efforts to assure its troops of personal support. War devastates individuals and families on all sides. Any attempt to ameliorate that devastation is evidence, however small, of a determination to bring some element of humanity to an endeavor that is inherently inhumane.

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