Since the days of exploration in the history of both the United States and Canada, the brave and the not-so-brave among us have put themselves into harms way in the name of the good of our nations.  They have prevented our territories from attack, and they have saved the lives of our citizens and residents.  They have protected our territory and our freedom.  In many cases, they have gone abroad, not only to keep threats away from our shores, but to protect those who were unable to protect themselves.  Some of these people returned safely when they were done, some came back maimed, and some were returned in body bags.

We thank those people for their service, for doing the right thing to protect us, no matter what the circumstances.  The reasons for their sacrifice have been clear in some cases.  In other cases, the political expediency of the campaigns that they were involved in were not quite as clear.  The political story that surrounds their sacrifice does not diminish the thanks and the honor that these souls deserve.  For whatever reason they were sent to serve us, their service is worthy of our honor.

On this day when we celebrate and thank those who have put themselves in harm’s way, I would like to make a request of our governments.  I would like to request that our governments think very carefully about the safety of our troops when they make their decisions to continue to send them into the path of harm.  Canada has already made some good choices in removing their troops from the current skirmishes where it is not clear that the needs there are worth the sacrifice.  The United States still needs to look harder at what we are using our military for.

We have historically stepped in when other people have been harmed.  We can argue that we need to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect those who live there from harm.  We can also argue that we need to continue to fight in those places to keep harm from reaching our shores.    I’m pretty certain that the average citizen here doesn’t get enough information in their news to make an educated decision on these matters.  I would insist, however, that our leaders who are privy to this information look at all of their options before continuing to place out troops in harm’s way.

We certainly have many options for dealing with these areas.  Are we really unable to deal with these enemies in a timely manner?  Do we really know who the enemy is?  Is there a way to work smarter and not harder to get things to a conclusion?  Have we really used enough diplomacy as an alternative to military might to solve that region’s problems?  Should we be asking other countries for diplomatic assistance rather than military assistance to get the job done?  Have we really looked hard at what solutions exist that do not invilve putting more of our sons and daughters into harm’s way?

I have a clear separation in my mind of the politics of war and the sacrifice of the troops who have kept us safe over the years.  I feel I can criticize our leaders for their role, while thanking our service members for theirs.  On this Veterans Day, we should honor the troops, present and past, as much as we can.  If we are leaders who have the power to do so, we should honor them by getting them out of harm’s way as soon as is practical.  Do not increase the numbers we have in the Middle East, Mr Obama.  Bring as many of them home as soon as possible.  Make that decision today.  Do it today.