- - Monday, July 3, 2017


“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can,” said Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

But the brutality, futility and stupidity are with us still. Daily come reports that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are heating up even as our troops are moving into Syria. We are today striving against an unmitigated evil every bit as ghastly and deadly as that we contended against in World War II. Like the Nazis of that earlier time, the Islamic extremists of today are committed to death and destruction. They are a killing machine at war with civilization itself, determined to destroy it. They call themselves Muslims, but the great majority of the Islamic world from which they sprang views their movement with as much horror as we do.

We can only wonder how this sickness of the human soul came into existence, but that is a study for scholars of future eras who will, no doubt, identify dark forces at work beneath the surface of Islamic societies that call young men to sacrifice their lives for abstract goals that only they can perceive. The challenge before us is one of simple self-preservation, defending the very concept of civilization itself in which ordinary people can go about their daily affairs in peace and security, a world in which our culture is cherished and passed along to future generations.

This battle, unlike that of World War II, is being fought by a small minority of Americans who have answered the call to defend our freedoms and heritage. Their sacrifices are daily brought home to us in news reports of battlefield casualties and film footage of military caskets being offloaded in Delaware. They are brought home to us in statistics of veterans suffering from missing limbs, traumatic head injuries and post-traumatic stress. They are brought home to us in reports of soaring suicide rates of military veterans who simply cannot escape the demons of the battlefield that have followed them home.

The Fourth of July holiday offers an excellent opportunity for the rest of us to stand up and express our appreciation for the sacrifices these heroes have made, and to listen to their testimony. That actually is the only proven therapy for post-traumatic stress. Medical science has come up with all sorts of wondrous devices — advanced prostheses — to help wounded warriors compensate for missing limbs. Unfortunately, there are no pills or other medical magic to treat the inner wounds.

But there are ways we can help. The wounded warriors with post-traumatic stress derive great therapeutic benefit from discussing their experiences with people who are sympathetic and do not pass judgment. Sometimes they can share with professional therapists, but anyone who cares can lend an ear — a minister, a neighbor or just a friend. The wounded veterans are most comfortable with others who share their experience and can relate to what they have been through, but in a real sense, their stories are our own stories. They have gone through hell so we didn’t have to.

The Fourth of July also offers an excellent chance to express support for the spouses of these victims of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress who must often bear full responsibility for their households, taking care of the children and paying the bills, while the warriors struggle to return to normalcy. These spouses — usually wives — are heroes, too, and they also need someone to listen. If you know one of these heroes, today would be a good opportunity to take some time from your busy schedule and lend an ear.

We had been drawing down our military commitment to Afghanistan and Iraq, but the extremists have seized that as an opportunity to renew their assault on civilization. We are now once again beefing up our military commitments to those war-torn lands. Soon the train of casualties will resume. The war continues with no end in sight. On this Fourth of July, let us all ponder the crisis that confronts us and our debt of gratitude to the warriors who put their own lives on the line so we back home can live in peace and freedom.

• David Walker is president and CEO Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes.

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