Those who were alive during the Vietnam war remember the conflict on two fronts. There was the fighting in Asia, and there was the fighting at home among ourselves.
All these many decades later, many of the wounds from that era remain raw.
Slogans like "America, love it or leave it" touched the core of the bitterness of the battle at home.
It can only be hoped that in the years following that divisive conflict Americans have learned that love of country and patriotism can take many forms.
It is the ability to express that love in a variety of ways -- be it by serving in the military, waving Old Glory, writing to those whose military service takes them far from the comforts of home or urging diplomatic solutions over fighting -- that makes this country the greatest in the world.
As Americans face this crisis with Iraq together, it's important to remember that one can still be patriotic and protest war as a viable answer to U.S. problems with Iraq. It is possible to support President Bush without always agreeing with him. It is possible to support U.S. troops without being a hawk.
Because there are so many sides to an issue as complicated as war, all Americans, no matter where they stand on this issue, should strive to make sure this debate doesn't get personal.
No matter what happens, the men and women serving in the military need to be assured they are supported by their fellow Americans. No matter what happens, they need to know they are appreciated. No matter what happens, they need to know the rest of the nation recognizes what a tough job they have. No matter what happens, they need to know they are in the nation's thoughts and prayers. No matter what happens, they need to know they will return home to a country proud of their service.
Those who serve in the military put their lives on the line daily, giving the rest of us the freedom to enjoy such esoteric debates as what a war with Iraq will accomplish or what diplomatic solutions have not been explored or why the United States needs to act now, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.
Those war debates and protests currently taking place are all an inherent part of the freedoms we enjoy in the United States. But while we take those freedoms for granted, we must never take for granted the sacrifices that have been made to make those freedoms a routine part of our lives. If there is a war with Iraq, there will be more lives laid down in the name of freedom.
That's why we would encourage Americans no matter where they stand on the war issue to make sure reason and respect are always a part of the debate. There are U.S. sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters now standing ready to do whatever they are called to do in a region of the world many U.S. citizens can't even find on a map. And the job they do, they will do in the interest of all Americans.
We applaud Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey's efforts to let U.S. servicemen and women know they are appreciated with a city-sponsored letter-writing campaign. We hope Kenai Peninsula residents will participate. What better way to put a face to the dangers of war and the problems faced by those in the military than by corresponding with them.
Our heartfelt gratitude goes to all those in the military, particularly those with roots on the peninsula. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the families who anxiously await their safe return.
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