Recently, I had a great opportunity to interview a local active duty Staff Sargent William Jones. He has been on nine tours around the world with the Navy, Army and National Guard and has probably seen a lot more than you. Through talking with him, I better understood his point of view on the U.S. military’s operations around the world. Fundamentally, I realized that the U.S. military exists to protect the freedom that us citizens use to criticize it.
According to SSG Jones, the military’s mission around the world is to “defend freedom of speech and expression, even if that means people treat soldiers like shit ’cause they have freedoms they don’t appreciate. Freedom in general is an inalienable right, it is constitutional right.”
At times people use these freedoms when groups protested against the current conflicts in the Middle East. They used mock coffins and demonstrations against the soldiers to make their point. Just check out Iraq protests on Wikipedia. If soldiers fight to protect their citizens why do citizens react in this way I asked? Instead, the protestors should direct their anger at the politicians and not the soldiers.
Jones said that while soldiers risk their lives to “protect assholes and rights so that [the protesters] can do these things,” they themselves are “not allowed to take a political stand, they will follow orders, orders in preserving the freedoms of the world.”
Jones says that he described protesters that way because “so many people want the pilot dead for killing one civilian, but then 15 bad guys were killed.”
SSG Jones also believes that the media “‘puts a negative spin’ on the war effort,” and does not even look at the schools, medical services or sick people that the soldiers help.
For example, one time on a patrol in Iraq, he and his fellow soldiers gave a five-year-old kid a foot split because there was no doctor around. It was refreshing to hear of soldiers helping civilians after all the negative press I read in the news. On another tour in Somalia, Jones witnessed other soldiers giving a single cracker to each child because humanitarian aid was not getting through and that was all the soldiers had to give.
“It wasn’t chocolate or pantyhose, just a cracker that gave those children the grateful look that made it worthwhile,” said Jones.
For Jones, he made many good friends serving multiple tours of duty because “there is nothing like it, and the longer you are deployed, the more friends you make … some you keep for life, you rely on each other. It does not matter what race, breed, color one is.”
After an hour of conversation, we ended on the topic of what are we willing to do to protect our freedom. Soldiers serve their country to protect our freedom around the world. They are willing to die for it. The question is what you are willing to do to protect your freedom?
So if and when you go on a protest against the war, think of how you can be hurting the soldiers, since as Jones said you “impress upon every soldier your opinion.”
I want to thank SSG William Jones for the interview, and all those who have served in the armed forces. I appreciate Alasdair Stewart of the Union-Bulletin and Roxanne Hinkle, local veterans advocate, for setting up the interview.