In late January, the city of St. Louis did something unusual. Actually, in the America of 2012 it was more than unusual...it was extraordinary...they held a parade to honor those who fought in Iraq.
Unlike the wars of past generations, the soldiers and sailors, marines and airmen who fought in this war never expected to get their own moment - marching down Manhattan's fabled “Canyon of Heroes” to a shower of ticker tape and adulation. The Pentagon has said it would be inappropriate to hold such an event - while troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.
And, unlike those who came home from Vietnam, these veterans aren’t coming back to a nation sharply divided over the wars they fought. While there have been pockets of protest and support - college campuses like this aren’t teeming with activist voices calling to bring the troops home or hosting rallies to welcome them back.
In part - it could be because these wars are so far away and have gone on so long. But truly - unless you live in a state where military service is part of everyday life, a state of war is something that’s easy to overlook. Despite our long history of military contracting and our naval warfare hub in southeastern Connecticut, you can grow up here and not really know what it’s like to serve your country overseas.
Now, with tens of thousands of veterans already home and soon to return, our “Coming Home” project aims to address this gulf of understanding.
Last week, WNPR held a live event as the Torp Theater at Central Connecticut State University. I co-hosted the event with WNPR reporter Lucy Nalpathanchil who is heading up this “Coming Home” project. Today, we’ll listen to some of the highlights of that event.
Just a note here. Like the rest of the nation, we’ve been following the terrible aftermath of the slaughter of Afghan civilians - allegedly at the hands of a US soldier. We’re also quite aware of the strong feelings by many against the wars - and the policy decisions made by the US government. This show is not about those things. It’s about hearing the voices of people who have served our country overseas - and hopfully about what we can learn from them.