Baxter Black: Citizen soldiers deserve acclaim, appreciation this Fourth of July |

Baxter Black: Citizen soldiers deserve acclaim, appreciation this Fourth of July

The term “citizen soldier” applies to an army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers, like Vietnam War enlistees and draftees that served their two years and were released to go back to their previous life. It also applies to the National Guard.

There is another group of citizens that I think deserve a similar recognition. The many thousands of citizens who work for the private contractors in the Mideast fighting the War on Terror. Granted, they get paid more, but they receive no medals for bravery, not much recognition for their service, no Veteran’s benefits, yet they are indispensible to any victory we might achieve.

The reason they are needed is because America’s armed forces have shrunk to their smallest number in modern history. Less than 1 percent of our population volunteers to serve. In our small church, in our small town, we always seem to have a handful of young men working overseas for private contractors. Some have a military background and some don’t.

The most prominent description of the service offered by private contractors is providing security.

Which, of course, is what military soldiers do. These unsung citizen soldiers are used by our government to fill the soldier gap. Their contributions range from combat in the field, transport, construction, high technology, personnel, command and control and training U.S. and allied military soldiers.

At this stage of the War on Terror, the use of UAV’s (Unmanned Aeri`al Vehicles, or drones to civilians) has become critical. Young men from my little town, my little church, sign up with the private contractors, go to training school and then ship off to the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq. Back home we recognize them for their service. We pray for them. We help their wives and children to endure. And we wait.

Once in country, many are spread out into UAV compounds, bases and facilities like forts in the old west. The UAV program is saving uncountable lives. Its impact is enormous. The presence of our citizen soldiers in the War on Terror has become essential and under the circumstances, irreplaceable.

And in spite of dwindling enlistment, fuzzy policies and distractions like Iran and illegal immigration, America remains the strongest force for good in the world. The War on Terror since Sept. 11 has sapped our country. Election after election, conference after conference, plan after plan, bad guy after bad guy, bomb after bomb, we continue to defend ourselves from a group of people who hate us because of our religions, our successes and our freedoms. Not a single politician, military general or news commentator has the right to throw stones at those who are trying to deal with the radical Islamic threat. Talk is cheap, ask anyone in the bunkers of Afghanistan.

That’s what this courageous group of 21st century citizen soldiers are doing. They are manning the drones that are saving inestimatable lives, protecting our troops and sacrificing years of their own personal life for the safety of the rest of us.

This Fourth of July, it is time we as a nation should recognize these citizen soldiers, our neighbors, from our little towns, from our little churches, from our own families, who are guarding our shores.

God bless them all. ❖

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Baxter Black

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