SPOTLIGHT SITE

How to Really Support Our Troops

You see it everywhere: Support Our Troops. It's on those magnetic yellow ribbon thingies people stick on the sides of their cars. It's all over the Internet. It's on billboards, on T-shirts, on little homemade signs at the counter of your local diner.

It's in the news, too. The phrase has become a political football with first one side and then the other making claims about who is more supportive. The entire Walter Reed Medical Center scandal has been called, rightly, a failure to Support Our Troops. Efforts to cut off or cut back funding for the war in Iraq have been called a failure to Support Our Troops. How, certain parties ask, can you Support Our Troops if you do not also support their mission? How, other parties ask, does it Support Our Troops by keeping them away from their families for extended tours of duty? By asking them to risk their lives in a war that seems more intractable, more pointless, with every passing month?

But these are political questions, and if there is one thing Six Packs for Soldiers tries very hard not to be, it's political. The FAQ says the site was founded by “a MoveOn.org guy and an NRA guy” who I suppose wish to remain anonymous. It has a single purpose, and it's one that everyone can get behind, no matter where they may lie on the political spectrum: to buy a soldier a beer.

That's it. That's all. Just upload a picture of yourself making a toast and the site will find a soldier who is back from Iraq or Afghanistan and buy them a beer. As a gesture of thanks, what could be more appealing to the average soldier? (I suppose there are certain sexual acts, but let's try to be practical here.) What could be more American? (Or possibly Australian.)

True, the site is a little vague about how they find the soldiers they buy for, and about how many beers they have bought to date, and even about how they're paying for them — but there's no denying their hearts are in the right place.

You can tell by the response they've gotten — page after page of photographs of people holding beers. Some in uniform; most not. Old people, young people, college kids, fellas down at the VFW for the Friday night fish fry. Some are obviously girlfriends. Most all are smiling. A few are grim, as if this isn't something fun they're doing, but something very important.

Whatever you may think of the war itself or the reasons it was started, there's no denying that the fighting of it has been a difficult, miserable job demanding sacrifice way out of proportion to any compensation — a miserable job done by soldiers who are fighting on behalf of us, the American people. We live in a democracy, so there's just no way around it.

Anyone with the littlest smidge of human kindness and sense enough to see what our soldiers have to go through should want to find a way to say “thank you.” And nothing says “thanks” like a nice, cold beer. If you can't find a soldier down at your local bar, take a look at sixpacksforsoldiers.com.

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