Support the troops

For the past seven years, U.S. soldiers and their families have already been demonstrating this spirit of service and sacrifice. Today, thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to risk death or injury daily, regardless of their political beliefs or opinion of the wars. Meanwhile, most Americans at home remain disinterested and woefully ignorant of the situation faced by our military abroad. In some ways, it is not surprising that so many Americans remain out of the fray. WeâÄôve been asked to make surprisingly few lifestyle changes throughout the war, save for waiting in longer airport lines or wearing a lapel pin. During World War II, civilians in the United States rationed food, gas and clothing while extolling the virtues of âÄúRosie the Riveter,âÄù and service to a common goal. In 2008, the mantra of âÄúDo with less so theyâÄôll have enoughâÄù was replaced with a president urging us to spend our rebate checks as quickly as possible. Throughout the war, the public has been insulated from its true costs. News reports coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly buried in back pages. According to the Pew Research Center, from May 2007 to March 2008, news coverage of the Iraq war fell approximately 50 percent. None of the three major networks have a permanent correspondent based in Iraq anymore. As coverage has declined, priorities have also shifted. The war in Iraq was the most important issue to only 10 percent of voters this past election. At the same time, nearly $1 trillion in wartime expenses have been added directly to the national debt. By financing the wars in this manner, our government has effectively shielded the public from the economic effects. Any financial discomfort is shifted to later generations, who will not have the opportunity to influence current national security policy. Even with the downturn in news coverage, a huge amount of information is available about the war through electronic media and other sources. Knowing this, it is especially shocking that in a February Pew Research Center Poll, only 28 percent of Americans could say that approximately 4,000 fellow countrymen have died in the Iraq war. Additionally, a National Geographic survey found that 60 percent of college-aged Americans could not find Iraq on a world map. Achieving the best possible outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan should be important to all Americans. Yet, our highly dedicated volunteer military and their families are being asked to take on a disproportionately large share of the burden. Support for our troops is more than just a bumper sticker or a tribute at the beginning of a baseball game. It is a real acknowledgement of the sacrifices that we are asking our servicemen and servicewomen to make. Looking ahead, let us follow the example of our troops and their families by contributing meaningfully to the future success of our country. This includes staying abreast of world issues, expecting accountability from our elected officials and contributing to our communities here at home. As our new president said: âÄúLet us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.âÄù Sean Fahnhorst Graduate Student