Mike Ursery

Don’t look now, but Memorial Day is just over the horizon. This year is going by fast. My hope is that this weekend everyone has a safe and memorable time doing whatever they choose.

This past year and some change has prompted a lot of talk about the word freedom. Last summer, we saw nationwide protests against a systemically-oppressive police state. We saw simple pleasures, like watching a ball game or going to a restaurant, suddenly taken away. Our way of life in this society suddenly changed, or experiences continue to prolong, and that word was thrown around a lot by many people.

But this editorial is not meant to be a lecture about freedom, or a discussion over whether collective security outweighs individual liberties. This is Memorial Day Weekend, and I want the focus of this to be on our nation’s warfighters, both past and current. This holiday, after all, was made for them.

I’m not one of those veterans who will give a person a lecture about the meaning of Memorial Day after they thank me for my service. I think it’s silly, and a total rejection of a kind gesture from a stranger or even someone you know. Yes, our country did establish this holiday to honor and remember those brave men and women warfighters who are no longer with us. We truly should remember their sacrifice.

But is there really just one day set aside for that? I don’t think so. I lost people while serving overseas, and their memories stay with me. I sometimes find myself wondering about where they are and what they are doing in the Great Beyond. My hope is they’re all kicking back and having a cold one while laughing at the Memorial Day police.

I want to talk about something a bit more serious than that. If you’re still watching the news, you’ve seen that the world is once again on fire. We are still at war in Afghanistan. Our president has told us we will begin leaving this nearly-20-year war in September. We’ll see if that happens.

Our president has also launched strikes against Syria, and authorized another arms sale to Israel. He now is telling Israel he wants a “pathway to a ceasefire.” How many of those do we need before that conflict gets resolved, huh?

That is the purpose of this editorial. Our government has a severe war addiction. It began after World War II, when the US took it upon itself to be an enemy of communism. This is not an endorsement of communism and I have never been a fan of the USSR, or even Russia, for that matter. But the proxies from the Cold War have been costly, and have in no way done anything to advance freedom or democracy.

Look at Vietnam. The country has a communist government today, and has since the days of Ho Chi Min. We sent our warfighters there to stop the spread of communism. It still spread throughout Vietnam; as it did through the rest of the Indochina region.

Before Vietnam, there was Korea. Again, we sent our warfighters there to stop the spread of communism. Just a few years earlier, our warfighters defeated what people thought to be the greatest evil the world had ever seen — the killing machines of Germany and Japan. Since the end of World War II, our country has averaged one war every 20 years. This does not include the special operations missions and drone strikes currently taking place around the Middle East and Africa.

We’ve been in Iraq twice, and we’re coming up on 20 years in Afghanistan. The September deadline to leave was originally set in May. Who knows if that deadline would have held if Donald Trump, the one who set the May deadline, would have honored it? He could have extended it just as easily as Biden did when he extended it another four months.

In the meantime, warfighters and innocent civilians are dying. What happens if we leave Afghanistan without achieving our stated goal of … well, whatever that is supposed to be. We went to Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida, and to confront the Taliban, a religious fanatical organization providing support to Al Qaida. We hit the Taliban with force and fury, and an end to major combat fighting in the country was declared over in May 2003.

It’s now May 2021. Eighteen years after the end of major combat fighting, we are still engaged in combat in Afghanistan. Timetables have also been made for Afghanistan to assume full control of its own country. The United Nations set a date for 2008. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) set a date for 2014. We’ve seen timelines set, only to not be followed.

We also saw one of the more bizarre events over these past 20 years — a 5:1 prisoner swap with the Taliban. We gave the Taliban five of their people for a deserter; Bo Bergdahl. I’m not printing this name to open old wounds. Yes, I know people are upset about what Bergdahl did when he willingly walked off his post. Personally, I’m more upset that seven other warfighters were killed while they were out looking him. But that’s just me.

I deployed to Afghanistan in October 2010 and stayed until May 2011. While there, my unit lost one person — Cpl. William H. Crouse, IV. Crouse was a big kid in a grown man’s body. He loved to pull pranks and have fun. He was also one of the first ones to jump when it was time to act. We loved Crouse, and he loved every one of his fellow Marines just as much. He stepped on a pressure plate while on patrol, triggering an improvised explosive device (IED) to explode. He lost both legs, and later went into cardiac arrest. This happened on Dec. 23, 2010, just before Christmas.

It’s been almost 10 years since Crouse’s death. We are still in Afghanistan. Why?

This Memorial Day, we can honor our fallen and living combat veterans by demanding that the US Government stop creating more. From Korea to Vietnam; Iraq to Afghanistan; Grenada to Kosovo, our presence has been made known all over the planet with little to show for it.

I completed two successful combat tours, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. I don’t feel as if I made America safer by being in Iraq. The same goes for my service in Afghanistan. Our Constitution and the freedoms it grants each one of us was not under attack. Instead, I was there in the name of national security, a term often used in place of special interests.

My sincere hope is that people don’t read this and mistake this as me being political. While it pertains to our federal government’s misguided foreign policy, this is not a political issue. This is a human issue.

If you’ve seen the news footage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, you have seen images of dead women, children and older adults. This isn’t the only part of the world where this is happening. Innocent people are also dying, or being displaced from their lives as they knew them, in other parts of the MIddle East. We are involved in these countries. We are responsible for the innocent loss of life in these countries.

Ask yourself — what was the reason? Did these people really need to die to make the world a safer place?

Something to think about this weekend.

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