James Fallows has been writing all week about the reception given Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was terribly wounded during his 10th deployment in Afghanistan, during the State of the Union speech. Here’s his first reaction:
But while that moment reflected limitless credit on Sgt. Remsburg, his family, and others similarly situated; and while I believe it was genuinely respectful on the president’s part, I don’t think the sustained ovation reflected well on the America of 2014. It was a good and honorable moment for him and his family. But I think the spectacle should make most Americans uneasy.
The vast majority of us play no part whatsoever in these prolonged overseas campaigns; people like Sgt. Remsburg go out on 10 deployments; we rousingly cheer their courage and will; and then we move on. Last month I mentioned that the most memorable book I read in 2013 was Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain. It’s about a group of U.S. soldiers who barely survive a terrible encounter in Iraq, and then are paraded around in a halftime tribute at a big Dallas Cowboys game. The crowd at Cowboys Stadium cheers in very much the way the Capitol audience did last night—then they get back to watching the game.
The only thing I can add is that it the insane number of tours these soldiers are serving hurt soldiers in ways other than wounds. The daughter of one of our neighbors was married to a soldier who did a huge number of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’m sure that’s a big part of the reason they’re now divorced, even though he’s avoided injury so far (knock wood).