Thinking back, I can pick out my life’s important moments. One was the heartbreaking attacks on September 11, 2001 when so many lives were changed. I didn’t know anyone who died or tried to rescue people that day, but my life was changed as well. I was stricken with grief by these horrific events and felt an immediate sense of patriotism, as did many Americans. As the war on terror approaches its sixth year, I can’t help but feel that just when our support should be stronger than ever, our country is criticizing our position in the Middle East.
I cannot remember where I was the moment President George W. Bush declared his war on terror, but it had a permanent effect on my life. Shortly after, my uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Howell of the United States Marine Corps, was deployed to Iraq. While he was in the line of fire, I could not help but worry constantly. Steve had a few close calls in Iraq but came home safely. He has since returned to Iraq and Kuwait many times since this initial deployment.
My uncle is my hero, and I am proud to say I have a family member who is fighting terror. Initially, it seemed like the rest of America shared my admiration. Immediately after 9/11, Americans came together to support each other and their troops. One could look down almost any street and see a sea of American flags flying proudly from every home. Yellow ribbons were tied to trees and displayed on most cars. Many teachers assigned students to write letters and make care packages for troops. Sadly, this support was short-lived.
As we approach the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the sea of flags has disappeared, the ribbons are tattered, and the flow of letters and care packages has slowed. America’s support for its troops should grow as their sacrifice continues, but instead, it seems to be diminishing. Many are too busy criticizing the war rather than showing our heroes the support they need and deserve. The biggest display of support America can provide is to stop criticizing the war. Our troops do not want to hear this negativity from us.
Americans have to remember that our troops are putting their lives on the line each day to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for our citizens as well as for those oppressed by the rule of dictators. America can show its troops support simply by flying the American flag and sending letters. The biggest sign of support would be an end to the criticism. Our troops are fighting to protect America and the people who live here, as well as countless others. The least we can do is show them support.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.