What War Do You Want Listed On Your Soldier's Grave?

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Good piece in the Washington Post this morning. The story is buried in the Metro section when it really should be on Page One. It has to do with the engravings on troops’ grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s troubled final resting place for its honored dead. It tell us something about the Army we’d rather not know.

The Army runs the place (at least for now — seems the service is having trouble tracking where the graves of some of the 300,000 buried there actually are). Its standard grave stone language for troops killed in the Afghan war is “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Those killed in Iraq have “Operation Iraqi Freedom” on theirs. Of course, now that the PR handle for that effort is “Operation New Dawn,” that could end up on future markers.

I can imagine a young child visiting her father’s — and, more importantly, grandfather’s — grave years from now and wondering what “Operation Enduring Freedom” means. Fair question. It seems the Army is more concerned with making some ill-defined point than remembering where Dad or Grand-dad gave his last full measure of devotion.

The VA, which runs most of the nation’s veterans’ cemeteries, goes with the tried and true, as Arlington did until recent conflicts: Afghanistan and Iraq are listed on the VA’s markers, like their older brothers: Vietnam, World War II, &c.

This is part of the Army’s weird preoccupation with nomenclature, which now includes calling every soldier a “hero” and a “warrior.” Many are, but many aren’t, and we tarnish the real ones when we paint them all that way. The Army takes pride in developing straight shooters on the battlefield, and it should take the same approach to honoring its dead.