A Spouse's Perspective on Whether the Wars Were 'Worth It'

A child hugs a soldier goodbye before deployment
U.S. Airman hugs his daughter goodbye as he prepares to deploy from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 11, 2017. Airmen from the 355th Fighter Wing deployed to Turkey in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, a multinational effort to weaken and destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (U.S. Air Force photo/Giovanni Sims)

"Worth" is a funny word. How do you determine whether something is "worth it?" What magical, subjective algorithm do we compute in our heads that weighs pros against cons, cost against gains?

A new Pew Research Center report published last week states that, in a recent survey, 64% of veterans said that the Iraq war "was not worth fighting," and 58% felt the same way about the war in Afghanistan. In the algorithm, the cost and burden outweigh any successes or progress.

Fifteen years ago, I worked on President George W. Bush's re-election campaign. I'd just finished college, where I'd spent countless hours in the quad following 9/11 and, in the years after, hanging flags and tying yellow ribbons around the trees on campus. I'd pledged my allegiance to the president and was thrilled to receive a Schedule C Appointment to work for his White House. I loved that man (spoiler alert: I still do), and 10,000% believed, as he did, we were just to go to war.

I worked for the government for the better part of the last 15 years, and I still think President Bush made the best decision he could with the information he had at the time. But now, 18 years into a war that seems as though it will never end, would I say it's worth it?

Related: Most Veterans Say Iraq, Afghanistan Wars Weren't Worth It: Pew Report

Times change. People change. Feelings change. But war is the same.

We put men and women on planes to faraway lands. Some don't come home at all, while others return in literal and figurative pieces, with broken bodies, hearts and minds. Marriages crumble, families struggle to say goodbye and then to reintegrate, as if nothing happened -- as if a time "before war" could somehow exist.

And yet we keep asking the same people to go to the same place, for the same mission. Isn't insanity defined by doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

The diplomat in me says keep brokering peace. The humanitarian in me says keep sending help. The security professional in me says to stay the course abroad to keep us safe at home. The American in me says keep fighting, keep pushing, keep forging ahead.

But the military wife in me?

She says ... just ... stop. Wave the white flag. Bring them all home, today. People are still dying over there in firefights and in battles. And people here are losing their mental battles and don't have the support and resources they need and deserve to survive. These are our people. Our husbands, our wives, our daddies and mommies, and our kids. One loss is too many; the thousands we've mourned, unspeakable.

The war isn't just in Iraq and Afghanistan anymore; it's everywhere. The cost of these wars is too much. It's too great. It's too heavy.

And to me, just like the majority of veterans who answered the Pew poll, it's not worth it.

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