Support for troops runs deep

  • Published
  • By Col. Joe Turk
  • Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station installation commander
As our nation held events to remember the 10th anniversary of 9/11, many of us collectively relived the pain and anger of that tragic day. We also recognized the sacrifices we made and are continuing to make as a nation to defend our freedom.

I had the privilege to participate in several of these events, one being a panel of citizens from Colorado Springs to discuss how 9/11 changed our lives. This panel was a true cross-section of American society -- homemakers, a teacher, emergency responders, a military family, a retired civil servant, two individuals currently unemployed, and a television reporter. Despite the fact we have been fighting the global war on terror for 10 years, I was struck by the overwhelming support and appreciation these members of the Colorado Springs community continue to have for our military personnel and their families. It reminded me of how fortunate we are -- Veterans of Vietnam and Korea did not receive this type of support. I also paused to reflect on whether we were taking the support of the American public for granted.

The political debate on whether the United States should have entered into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq divided the nation much like the Vietnam War. According to Gallup polls, Americans initially supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq stronger that the Vietnam War. But, as we become entrenched in these wars, public support became very similar to Vietnam with nearly 50 percent of Americans believing we shouldn't have embarked on these wars. Despite the wavering political support and increased debate on when we should pull our troops back, the American public continues to stand behind us and our families and provide unprecedented support.

The military remains one of the most respected professions in the eyes of most Americans -- second only to nurses in recent surveys. National efforts initiated to support our troops such as Operation Home Front continue to flourish and provide necessary assistance to our deployed troops and their families. Local organizations such as Home Front Cares provide another avenue to help our people and their families counter the hardships of deployments. Numerous local businesses and restaurants offer military discounts to show their support. Given the tough economic times we are in, these business owners are making a significant statement to show us their support.

One of the ladies I met on the 9/11 panel shared her story with me. As we began to deploy troops into Afghanistan, she saw news reports on the conditions in which our young troops were living and fighting. She established a network to reach out to deployed troops. Although her small group has no direct military affiliation, they correspond regularly with our deployed troops, collect donations, and provide sundry items to make their deployments more comfortable. She connected with a young Marine deployed to Afghanistan and developed such a strong rapport, the Marine invited her to his wedding even though they had never met in person!

This story is not unique -- they happen because the bond between America and our deployed troops remains strong. We are very fortunate to have the respect and support of the American public as we continue to defend freedom wherever we are called. So, the next time you have a meal at a local restaurant and the owners provide a military discount, don't simply thank them for saving you a couple dollars off your bill. Thank them for standing behind us and our families and let them know we truly appreciate the support of the American public.