Perhaps half a billion people watched Budweiser’s Superbowl ad titled “A Hero’s Welcome.” If you were among the handful of Americans who haven’t yet seen it, this is a spoiler alert. It centers on the town of Winter Haven, Florida and its homecoming celebration for Army Lt. Chuck Nadd on his return from Afghanistan. The whole community turns out to welcome him back. There is a parade, naturally, that includes an appearance by the Budweiser Clydesdales.
There is an accompanying video on YouTube about the Winter Haven celebration for Lt. Nadd that provides background information about the ad including interviews with his girlfriend, mother, friends, townspeople and veterans of earlier conflicts. The stories of the different experiences of aging veterans of the Vietnam War when they returned home are particularly poignant. If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you have no heart.
The Budweiser ad is a wonderful tribute to an American warrior and an equally terrific statement about the American people. It didn’t matter that Lt. Nadd was a volunteer, a professional soldier and not a draftee. To the people in Winter Haven he was one of their own, no different than the volunteers and draftees that left the town to fight in America’s wars for almost 200 years.
But the Budweiser ad also is tragic. The citizens of Winter Haven are honoring a soldier returning from a war we are in the process of losing. This fact doesn’t lessen the nobility of Lt. Nadd’s service. But it does call into question how much the American people through their government actually care for our soldiers. We come together to celebrate the return of our soldiers from the battlefield but take no responsibility for putting them in a no-win situation.
Even the President seems to suffer from this moral paradox. At the State of the Union speech, President Obama took time to honor a severely wounded veteran, Cory Remsburg. He was injured on his 10th deployment, sent repeatedly back to a war that we now know, courtesy of Robert Gates’ recent book, the Administration didn’t believe in and in pursuit of a strategy it really didn’t support or resource appropriately. Cory Remsburg is a genuine American hero. He has earned a lifetime’s worth of our respect, support and care.
But what about the cause for which he fought and was so severely wounded? The fact that we have continued to send men and women to fight and possibly die in a war we have long since rejected is tragic. The fact that al Qaeda has spread throughout much of the Muslim world and threatens to tear Iraq apart indicates that all the blood and treasure spent since September 11 may have been for naught.
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