During the holiday season it's important to point out the good work that people in our community perform on behalf of others and the sacrifices they are willing to make.
One example is being played out today (Dec. 12) in Kuwait and Basra, Iraq, 6,400 miles away, and at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in downtown St. Paul. Volunteers of the group Serving Our Troops are providing nearly 10,000 steak dinners to Minnesota National Guard members overseas and to their families back home. KSTP-TV is helping to provide a video link so the soldiers and their families can talk to each other.
This is the seventh such project Serving Our Troops has conducted since 2004. The group has served up steaks in military bases in the U.S., Kosovo and Iraq, wherever Minnesota guard soldiers are stationed. The group includes local restaurant owners, business people and public officials. My friend and sometime business colleague, Ted Davis, a local public relations person, is among the volunteers in Kuwait.
Last month, Serving Our Troops, won the Civilian Award for Excellence from the National Guard Bureau, in recognition of the group's volunteer efforts over the years.
I know that Ted and his colleagues are extremely proud of the work they do and the pleasure it brings to the troops and their families.
No matter what your views on the war in Iraq (and I was opposed to it), it is important to honor the men and women who volunteer to serve our country. They do not make policy. They have put themselves at great risk to do a job. They deserve our respect both in the war theater and when they return to civilian life in our community.
A mistake that many of us who protested the Vietnam War made was our inability or unwillingness to separate the soldiers in the field, many of whom were drafted, from the policy made in Washington, D.C., by successive administrations. You cannot blame the soldiers for risking their lives carrying out a policy not of their making.
I think that many political leaders have learned this lesson. The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, for whom I once worked, was vehemently opposed to the first war in Iraq (as well as the second), but he made it office policy to build bridges to veterans groups and to soldiers who served. Even today, Sen. Al Franken has spoken out on behalf of veterans. Before he was elected, he made several trips to Iraq to entertain the troops.
As the debate over American policy in Afghanistan heats up, it is important to remember that the men and women who will be shipping out deserve our respect and support even if we may disagree with the mission they are being sent to carry out.
For today, it's enough to say thanks to the volunteers of Serving Our Troops who brought a bit of holiday cheer to their fellow Minnesotans and their families and to those troops and families for all the sacrifices they make.
For a news story on the project: http://kstp.com/news/stories/S1307955.shtml?cat=1
For more background on Serving Our Troops: http://servingourtroops.com/