Soldiering was never easy. For those who serve in the U.S. armed forces and for their families, that mission became considerably more difficult after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2003.
The anxiety felt by family members of Minnesota Army National Guard members serving in Iraq was clearly evident a little more than a week ago as soldiers' families peppered Brig. Gen. Harry A. Sieben Jr. with questions about why their loved ones' deployment was extended until as late as April of 2004.
Sieben readily admitted he didn't have all the answers and echoed the families' irritation regarding incidents in which the soldiers had nothing to do.
"Wars aren't as predictable as we'd like them to be," he told the families he met with at Camp Ripley recently.
His comments rang true with anyone who's ever served during war time. Plans change with the frequency of the weather. And the military's hurry-up-and-wait mode is familiar to just about every veteran.
What many people have difficulty grasping is that this is a different military then the one we might recall from the Cold War days. During the Vietnam War, Sieben said, the Army was larger and had a draft at its disposal. Now the number of full-time soldiers is down. There's a greater reliance on Guard and Reserve members.
The bottom line for Guard members, Sieben explained, is that federal law grants the president the authority to call them to active duty for as much as two years. And that's something that's explained to every recruit.
Sometimes Americans have a painfully short attention span. Many people forget we're engaged in a war on terrorism. It's an unconventional war, but it's still a war.
As painful as it is, uncertainty is the norm during war time. And it's our military personnel and their families who bear the greatest burdens as the result of that uncertainty.
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