America at War

This week marked the 10th year of the war in Afghanistan.  Ten years ago I was 16 years old, still enamored with the freedom that my drivers license had given me (although, to be fair, the freedom of the road still excites me). The war in Iraq has entered it’s 8th year.  To date there have been 4,478 US casualties in Iraq and another 1,806 in Afghanistan.  An entire generation of service members children have grown up in homes torn apart by deployments to the middle-east.

I know this is a baseball blog, and that there are many great stories to cover, but every now and then we need to take a moment and reflect on the great sacrifices made my our US service members around the world that allow us to sit back and enjoy MLB and all that it has to offer.

Less than six years ago I enlisted in the US Coast Guard and began my commitment to defend our great nation and the constitution.  The Coast Guard seemed to me to be a great place to server our nation while avoiding the hazards of the war going on half-way around the world. Next year I will begin a year long deployment to the Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell and will patrol in and around the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation New Dawn, no longer will the war be far off and abstract for me, my friends or my family. The war is finally reaching out to touch us, no longer a back-burner issue that it has been and continues to be for most of the nation.

The most recent casualty of war,  Sgt. Nathan L. Wyrick who died from combat-related injuries in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on October 10, 2011. As the days go by, more and more of our young men and women sacrifice themselves in service of our nation. With these thoughts now heavy on my mind, the reality of our involvement in the middle-east has taken center stage in my life.  Baseball, even the great post-season play unfolding before all of us, seems to have taken a back page to what’s happening thousands of miles away.

Getting orders to deploy in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a real eye-opener for me.  The wars have been going on now for 10 and 8 years respectively and are now just mentioned in passing. Days go by with no mention of the fighting our men and women are doing around the world. In previous wars fought by our country, the percentage of Americans involved in the war (as service members) was as high as 9%.  Today’s military is comprised of less than 1/2 of 1% of the American population.  The war in Afghanistan is the longest war our nation has ever waged, and the burden is being born by the smallest % of Americans ever.

We, as fans, spend hundreds of dollars annually on baseball related items, clothes, tickets, collectables, etc, and spend countless hours watching the game, reading about the issues, talking about the great play from last nights game; we love baseball.  But how often to we stop to discuss the things in life that are just a bit more important?

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  • gadfly

    Well, thanks for your service. The epiphany you’re having regarding the insignificance of professional sport relative to “the things in life that are a bit more important” is one that (in my mind at least) marks the crossing of a boundary between an adolescent mentality and an adult one. And the further removed you are from the former, the more puzzling, and offputting, is the sight of face-painted, sign-toting adults who don sports jersies with other men’s names on their backs and who (when “their” team wins) appropriate for themselves the joys of a success they’ve no responsibility for themselves. Of course they’d have that their cheering willed their team to victory, or that their tax dollars facilitated the teams continued existence in the community, or that their merchandise purchases helped fund their success. And yet they forget that their single voice is just one in a cacophony of voices, that their tax dollars and their merchandise purchases are a drop in a sea of dollars in purchases that support the team. Which is to say that if they had never supported their favorite team — indeed if they had never been born — their lack of support would not have altered the fortunes of their team. “Their” team’s history would have played out the same way. Put another way, in the real world, the pride one takes in a performance is commensurate with the responsibility one has in that performance. In the world of fandom, where fans preen when their team wins and despair when their team loses, that common-sense notion goes out the window.

    But again, thank you for your service.