“Let’s go get some!”

I was a Marine Corps recruiter when Desert Storm kicked off. I was out running while wearing a Marine Corps T-shirt when a guy stopped me to offer to join the war. At least, that’s how I took his words.

“You going with those guys?” I asked.

He seemed taken aback. “Uh, no, man, I’ve got bad knees.”

But he said “Let’s.” As in “Let us.” As in, he was gonna be a part of it.

That’s the way it goes every time there’s war or the threat of war. Sometimes, the ones getting hyped about it aren’t the ones who’ll be fighting it.

I should take it easy on the guy. He was by no means alone. Throughout history, troops have gotten big sendoffs when it comes to marching off to war. The song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” originated in 1863. The composer, Patrick Gilmore, wrote it about his daughter’s fianceé, who was fighting for the Union. It became a soundtrack of sorts afterward; every time our country sent our troops to war, the song played somewhere. A whole lot of the ones singing weren’t going anywhere.

And there’s a photo in the National Archives of the 27th Division getting a huge parade through downtown New York City in 1917. Citizens lined the streets and waved flags, and the bands played gaily. Those citizens weren’t going anywhere.

There’s also an online video of a German Army parade. The troops goose-stepped along the route passing their Fuhrer while the citizens lined the streets and waved flags, and the bands played gaily for the big sendoff. Those citizens weren’t going anywhere, either.

In 1983, after a suicide bomber blew up the barracks in Beirut, my unit was placed on stand-by. We stashed our gear on a pier, waiting for days for word to board a vessel booked to take us overseas. All kinds of people yelled at us from the beach, usually some form of “Let’s go get some!” as we prepared and awaited our possible sendoff.

“Sendoff.” As in, “Send somebody else to do the fighting.” Those songs and parades may have been intended as morale boosters, but they still came from folks who weren’t going anywhere.

Here we are again, facing yet another threat of war. I’m not about to dive in over my pay grade and attempt to justify the why’s and why not’s. If there’s evidence we needed to act, so be it. If there is no evidence, and the recent attack was merely a political move, I hope the ones responsible get to burn in eternity. Service members know the risks, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to protect us. That doesn’t mean they should suffer just to make someone else feel more important.

Because no matter how big or small the conflict, the truth is the ones doing all the fighting and bleeding usually aren’t the ones pushing for war. It’s always been that way.

Way back in the 1600s, French philosopher Paschal said, “Can anything be more ridiculous than that a man should have the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of the sea, and because his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have none with him?”

I won’t call war “necessary.” But I will call it “inevitable.” Time and again, the world has seen its leaders make those decisions, for whatever reasons, to declare war on another country.

Man, think about the Trojan War. Paris of Troy stole Helen from Menelaus, the king of Sparta, and an all-out war ensued. How’d you like to be one of the soldiers knowing you’re about to die because of some other guy’s booty call?

Humans have fought over pigs — seriously, Google “The Pig War” if you don’t believe me — and other ridiculous reasons. The common thread: Leaders made the decisions, and the poor slobs in the ranks put themselves on the line. People died over those decisions.

Hitler wanted to show the world his biceps were bigger, so he declared war on our country and others. The result was more than four million German troops killed or missing. A total of between 75-80 million humans perished by the time all the flexing ended.

Of all the leaders involved in that particular conflict, not a single one was actually on the battlefield. No, they were masters of keeping their distance from disaster. It’s usually the way such things work.

It’s why I cringe when I see or hear another “cheer” for war. We’re not sitting in the stands of a high school football stadium, and those aren’t players spending a few hours competing in a game. The soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are heading overseas. They’re men and women with families, and you won’t hear the moms, dads, spouses or children screaming, “Let’s go get some!”

Nevertheless, our warriors of the keyboard conflicts still will sound off with “Let’s” and “We” as if they’re on the verge of stowing their own gear on those transport planes. I half expect to see some of the video game heroes show up at the next Veterans Day parade, or file for a Purple Heart after cutting their finger while opening a Pepsi can just before their latest war game conquest.

Long-distance bravado is the safest kind, right?

I won’t be cheering anything about this. I’ve carried the caskets and presented the flags at funerals. There wasn’t any cheering involved in either event. There weren’t any parades for those “sendoffs.” The only music I heard was “Taps.”

Instead, I’ll hope and pray those in charge of the big decisions find a way to resolve it before it all blows up — again. I’ll hope the number of troops who boarded the planes will be the same when the planes return.

And I’ll hope the ones who keep using “Let’s” and “We” every time another potential war looms are already on their way to their nearest military recruiting offices.

I understand our military branches are hiring.

They’ve got plenty of room for “Let’s” and “We.”

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is garylstallard@yahoo.com.

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