I began by mentioning the negative opinion by some regarding the “yellow ribbon magnets” which we see on cars everywhere. Of course, that surprised them … why would that be viewed negatively?
Because Americans slap those magnets on their cars…and that is as far as they are willing or able to support the troops.
I asked the room (most students, a few adults) if they knew the name of the young man who graduated from their high school and was later killed in Iraq. Only one person raised her hand… my daughter—because it was her uncle, my brother, who was killed. I enlightened the others about their fallen alumni, who he was and who was left behind. I told them that being aware of this loss… to never forget… is one way to support the troops.
I asked them if they knew how many Idahoans were killed in Iraq (16), how many Americans have been killed in Iraq (2,939), and how many have been wounded (21,778)… nobody knew, most were not even close. Again, being aware of the sacrifice being made by our troops… is one way to support the troops.
I discussed the need for citizens to keep open minds about what they hear. I reminded them to research and confirm “sound bites” before believing them. I told them how important it was that they develop their OWN opinions rather than blindly follow others. For an example, I read them the following quote:
“We are also here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership? … Where are they now that we, the men whom they sent off to war, have returned? These are commanders who have deserted their troops, and there is no more serious crime in the law of war.”I let them know these words were spoken during Vietnam by a soldier as he testified before Congress, then I asked if they thought the speaker was a traitor to our country… or did he support the troops? They seemed to agree that he sounded like he supported the troops… and seemed to be surprised that the words were spoken by John Kerry.
I also encouraged the students to research candidates and politicians to see how well THEY support the troops. I informed them about Vote-Smart.org and how voters can learn how current politicians vote and how certain issue groups "grade" their actions. For example, I wanted them to know that our esteemed Senator Larry Craig was given a grade of D- from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. I didn’t have enough time to tell them that he only supported the interests of the Disabled American Veterans 20 percent and the interests of the Disabled American Veterans 42 percent. (And he's the CHAIR of the Veterans' Affairs Committee in the Senate!) I wanted them to know that being aware of how our reprentatives support the troops is yet another way WE support the troops.
I don’t know if I made much of an impact, but I tried.