A few months ago, I was on a flight between two American cities. I was at the front of the economy class cabin, and watched as one of the first class customers waved down a flight attendant. He said, “there’s a soldier back there–would it be all right if I switched seats with him?”
On that same trip, I stood behind a couple of men on an escalator. They were strangers to each other, and were just chitchatting about flight connections. One was dressed in a military uniform. When they parted ways at the bottom of the escalator, the other man said “thank you for your service”.
Today I listened to a recent episode of This American Life. In it, a man tells the story of how a flight attendant requested that passengers remain seated so that a soldier returning from Iraq could disembark first. He was going to see his eight-and-a-half month-old baby for the first time.
I’ve witnessed other similar acts of generosity and kindness toward American military personnel. It’s a coincidence, I think, that these three stories happened at airports. I’ve never seen such gestures in Canada, though that may be because we have few military bases in and around Vancouver, and we just have fewer military personnel per capita.
I’m not sure how to feel about this. Should we accord extra respect toward soldiers? And does it matter if they’re being deployed to war zones?
On the one hand, they’re usually underprivileged, under-educated citizens being paid poorly to put their lives at risk ostensibly in defense of their nation.
On the other hand, maybe they’re no or less heroic than firefights, police officers or nurses? Plus, they may be engaged in a war with which you disagree.
Maybe this is just another way of asking “can you support the troops but not the war”, which is a question we talked about back in 2006.