This Christmas, support Home Town Heroes
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on December 26, 2005.
Sergeant Joshua Landreth tends to talk in a slow drawl. But he picks up the pace when discussing the Army and the war in Iraq. He had wanted to be in the Army since early childhood. He even took accelerated high school classes so he could join early. An eight-year veteran, he takes pride in his soldiers and the job they do. He points out that, like all good sergeants, he tries to protect his men. "On room entry, I was always the first in and last out."
At one point during a conversation with your elder author, Sergeant Landreth showed his frustration by saying, "I'm broke." Every generation of military develops its own slang, so it took a couple of seconds to realize that he was not talking about his finances. He was talking about the injuries he suffered as the result of a roadside bomb. The explosion injured his leg, back, and neck.
At first glance it may hard to tell that Sergeant Landreth is "broke," except that he has a slight limp, and sometimes he carries around a bag full of medication.
He is only one of thousands of home front heroes.
Sergeant Landreth works in Colorado Springs, while his wife and two children live in Florida. Thanks partly to the help of Phyllis Derby, founder of Home Front Heroes, the family was reunited in Denver for the Christmas holidays.
Derby discovered that there is not enough support for military personnel or their families when, as a single mother, her own son was deployed. Today, Home Front Heroes is there for soldiers from the time they enter basic training till they're discharged, and beyond. Derby makes sure that these soldiers don't just become a number. "These service people who give their all deserve that," she said.
Derby gives her all to Home Front Heroes. She has wracked up thousands of miles in her car and met with hundreds of people. Her organization offers financial help, gives gift cards, and lends emotional support. Derby has attended over ten military funerals. As she says with wavering voice, "The hurt never gets less."
To fulfill its mission, Home Front Heroes has little choice but to extend its reach nationally and even internationally. Members of the group have e-mailed wives from one end of the country to the other and helped servicemen and women who are transferred from the U.S. to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Home Front Heroes could use your help with funding and volunteer efforts.
Others are getting involved, too. Townhall set up ThankASoldierWeek.com, which allows people to send well-wishes to soldiers. One Vietnam vet posted, "Please know that I join millions of Americans who are very thankful for your service to our country... Merry Christmas to you, your comrades in arms, and your loved ones at home." The web page also lists various charities that help to support our soldiers.
Matt Pottinger recently quit his job with The Wall Street Journal to join the Marines. He wrote about his decision for the December 15 edition of that paper. He describes his experiences in China: "I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square... I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.
"When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule... That makes you think about protecting your country no matter who you are or what you're doing. What impresses you most, when you don't have them day to day, are the institutions that distinguish the U.S.: the separation of powers, a free press, the right to vote, and a culture that values civic duty and service, to name but a few."
Of course, as Pottinger also suggests, support for America and her troops doesn't necessarily imply support for every U.S. policy. Your younger author is particularly impressed with the case made by Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute that the war on terror has involved too many U.S. casualties because of policies that sometimes tie the hands of our soldiers and send them on the wrong missions. Brook points out that Iran was a much greater threat to the U.S. and remains so. Brook said last year before visiting Colorado: "The only [proper] goal of the government is to defend and protect the individual rights of Americans." That includes the individual rights of soldiers.
Despite some problems, America is a fundamentally virtuous nation, and soldiers who defend her deserve our admiration and support. We thank Derby for helping to provide it.