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V-E Day, National Military Appreciation Month, and the praiseworthy American soldier

Published in Blog on May 08, 2024 by Jakob Fay

Today, May 8, marks 79 years since Victory in Europe (V-E) Day heralded the end of the Allied war against Germany, and May, National Military Appreciation Month, “serves as a reminder of the profound contributions made by” American soldiers past and present. We, like the revelers on May 8, 1945, ought to be out in the streets, gratefully vaunting the heroism of the U.S. armed forces. Instead, we find ourselves embroiled in a debate about whether our troops are even worth celebrating.

Anti-Americanism runs rampant in our culture, promulgated by supposedly “enlightened,” anti-white, and anti-colonial revisionists, conspiracy theorists, hippies, and demagogues. In short summary, the idea holds that America is, at heart, a land-grabbing oppressor nation that maintains its place at the top of the global food chain by bullying those who oppose her evil reign of terror. Even the “bad guys”—China, Russia, Iran—are recast as victims of the American propaganda machine, i.e., we only hate them because our government has conditioned us to do so. Naturally, this view taints the modern paradigm of thought concerning America’s role in war. Every CIA-sanctioned coup d'état, act of attritional war, and questionable battlefield tactic offsets a thousand acts of American valor—or so we are told.

War is complicated. Our record is far from spotless, and there is a fair conversation to be had about corruption within the U.S. military-industrial complex. Allied Supreme Commander, five-star General of the Army, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower himself warned against the potential pitfalls of this “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry….”

But I am not here to debate the merits of realpolitik or whether having a standing army has, as some critics seem to think, corrupted the very soul of our nation.

Instead, I would like to point out that in our sanctimonious grumblings about imperfect warfare we have committed our own grievous crime—ingratitude against the boys and men who served, sacrificed, bled, and died for the preservation of our liberty; so that, ironically, we might have the freedom to critique and lambaste their service.

This year, I have witnessed a tireless effort to smear the U.S. armed forces as the great purveyor of evil on the world stage, an attack conducted comfortably from the very soil they fought to protect, and I am sick of it.

For every tale you recount of problematic or thorny military ethics, I could tell you a thousand more of heroism, valor, dignity, spirit, and untainted virtue. The American story is replete with those kinds of stories. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” said Winston Churchill about the Royal Air Force; certainly, the same could be said of American soldiers, too.

And yet, we, “civilized” moderns, genocide-adjacent peacemongers, and moralizing relativists, offer them nothing but scorn, lecturing them about how they did not risk their lives for us “appropriately.” We spit in their faces. And, because we often disagree with the government under which they served (or serve), we offhandedly dismiss all their labors as “evil.”

Herein lies an important distinction—the U.S. government may, at times, stand guilty of disturbing moral blunders, but that does not always mean that the rank-and-file men, the everyday soldiers on the frontlines, are any less deserving of our thanks. These threw themselves in harm’s way for our sake and the sake of self-government; the rest of us just complained. We labeled ourselves “keyboard warriors” and “armchair combatants”; they sustained actual fire. We’re still nursing wounds from our last social media altercation; they went, as the saying goes, to hell and back again and hardly raised a complaint.

In other words, there are actual heroes among us, absent from the company of those who complain on Reddit that our “literally evil” country is a “colonial, expansionist genocidal settler state.” The real heroes are the boys who took up arms, vanquished Nazisim, and wrote fewer autobiographies than Britney Spears. Were they perfect? Of course not. But we could use more men like them.

Who else secured government of, by, and for the people? Who else ended slavery on a bloody field of battle? Who bested Hitler, outlived the U.S.S.R., and checked the spread of the world’s most noxious ideas? Who else, still to this day, fights for the preservation of a nation that scarcely remembers to repay their sacrifice?

I know only one answer.

The American soldier.

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