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Living Out Loud: : Fall of the Toy Soldiers

Understanding our troops

By Lee Butler · September 19th, 2007 · Living Out Loud

I saw the faceless names as they appeared in the daily newspapers. They read: Bryan Taylor, Tyler Swisher, Gregory Rogers and Nicholas Erdy. These are the names of warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice. They served their country valiantly and gave up their lives in Iraq.

I'm proud to say that I have two things in common with these patriots. I spent time in the U.S. Army, and I am also a resident of Ohio. The only thing that separates us is the honorable discharge papers that I lived to receive. Unfortunately, instead of an honorable discharge, the families of these men received an American flag with death benefits.

I remember being a child growing up in the '70s. I used to collect those plastic green army men that can be found in any dollar store. I can remember getting together with my friends and playing war. We would use rocks or our hands to knock over the toy soldiers.

I can remember one soldier in particular. He was the guy that was getting shot in the back as his helmet was being separated from his head. We were adamant about sending these plastic troops to their deaths. There mission was to kill or be killed. Not too many options were offered from an eight-year-old general. My troops were never given a reason why they had to die. I didn't feel the need to tell them why.

When I think of the war in Iraq, I don't think about the politics of the war. I think about the faceless soldiers stationed in Iraq. Sadly, I also wonder about the ones who didn't make it home.

I am sure Mr. Taylor and Mr. Swisher weren't thinking about Iraq 10 years ago. Instead of wondering if they would live to see another day, they probably wondered who they would fall in love with. They were probably excited about starting a career, having children, getting married, going to the movies or just hanging out with friends. When I was in my early 20s, I served in the Army and wondered the same things. I looked forward to growing up and starting my own life.

Surprisingly, there are many Americans in this country who don't support the military. I have seen Mr. and Mrs. Protester appear on television and complain about them. They see the military as a means of enforcing our will upon smaller countries. Well, Mr. and Ms. Protester, if it weren't for our troops; you would either be goose-stepping to some German folk song or eating sushi and drinking sake at your local pub.

Here's another thought for Mr. and Mrs. Protester: Let's disband our military. I wonder how long it would take for our enemies to appear on our doorsteps?

For those of you have never served in the military, I am going to dismiss some of the common beliefs that you might have heard about our troops:

· "People join the military for the money." No, they don't. Ask any Army recruiter what a PFC earns. They could earn more managing a burger joint.

· "They don't have to join; no one made them." If these young Americans didn't volunteer for service, guess who would go in their places? Your beloved child would be drafted and sent to either Iraq or Afghanistan. If you don't believe me, do a Google search on Vietnam. Anyone remember the draft? My father was drafted into Vietnam; he didn't volunteer.

· "It's not hard being a soldier; I put in a hard day at the office." Your job might be hard, but at least you can take a restroom break without the threat of someone shooting you for being an infidel.

So remember this while sitting in front of your television with that bag of chips and cold drink. Please try to remember the soldiers that are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These real soldiers are similar to the ones I used to collect as a child.

Our elected leaders are not much different from the typical 8-year-old generals that send plastic troops to war on a daily basis. Politicians find it an easy task to send a soldier into harm's way when they don't know them personally.

Real soldiers willingly sacrifice their lives for Americans they don't even know. They also leave their families behind so that people can complain about them being nothing but a group of "killers and terrorists."

The most significant difference between a toy soldier and a real soldier is the burial. When a toy soldier dies, it gets buried in a closet or a shoebox. A real soldier gets buried in a cemetery.



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