War is expensive. Honoring our troops means more than waxing misty-eyed while waving a flag at the parade; more than getting chill bumps with hand-over-heart while the Star Spangled Banner is rendered; more than the standing ovations at the airport; more than the perfunctory obligatory mantra, "thank you for your service."
I remember after the Iraq War was launched, people showed their support for the troops by displaying a magnet on their vehicles, not willing to risk hurting the resale value of their vehicles by applying a more permanent bumper sticker which could harm 8 square inches of paint. That's how deep their support for the troops ran.
And at first the magnets were only available for $6.00 at convenience stores from a company which was donating proceeds to the families of troops. But when Walmart began selling $2.00 China-made magnets, that's what people bought instead. That's how deep their support for the troops ran.
Congress and the president at the time gave full unflinching support for the military budget, using tax dollars to buy the machinery of war, even the expensive toys which the Pentagon said it didn't need but were bought by congress anyway to keep military contractors in their districts happy. But when it came to the new GI bill to give the veterans of Iraq the same benefits as the veterans of WWII, they voted against it. That's how deep their support for the troops ran.
Their support for the troops ends at the door of appropriating the significant tax dollars which it would take to hire enough government workers to end the VA backlog; it ends at the door of recognizing the legitimacy of a PTSD diagnosis; it ends at the door of long-term and costly solutions to help heal the scars of battle which are not visible from the outside and which are causing us to lose more veterans to suicide than we lost in combat.
After 9/11, the American public fell all over itself in a rush to give their full support and consent to the idea of our country being in a state of perpetual and undefined war, criticizing those who were not so eager. But they did so because they had been led to believe that war is free.
We did not get a war tax to "pay as we went" for the war. Instead, we got a tax cut. We did not get rationing of raw materials so the best we had could go towards the war effort. Instead, we got an unprecedented easing of credit so we could afford even more consumer comforts and conveniences as the unfunded war effort wrecked our budget. We did not get images in our living rooms on our credit-purchased 72" plasma screens of flag-draped coffins returning from the war. Instead, we got a sanitized version of reality that would allow us to sleep peacefully at night while the few families of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice were ravaged with hearts broken into millions of pieces.
Much like the holier-than-thou Pharisees of the Bible who prayed aloud in a competition intended to show the world that they honored God more than all the others around them, many on these holidays seem to be in competition aimed at publicly showing that they honor our troops more than the rest of us do.
But I will believe they honor and support our troops when they encourage their own children to sign up for war; when they open their checkbooks at tax time without grumbling; when they support the shared sacrifice of a war tax; when they happily want our government to spend as liberally on the needs of the warriors, as they do on the machinery of the war.