FREE PRESS -- On Veterans' Day there are several ways to recognize those who have given our country years of regimented service, a lifetime of disability, or even life itself.  One is to indulge in the myth that these sacrifices alone have enabled all our rights and liberties—a myth that evinces an underlying current of impatience, if not resentment, for the complex principles and processes of civil society.

Another is to pay attention to what we are asking our young volunteers in uniform to face—right now.  Only a very small proportion of the un-retired generation, born since Vietnam, have ever worn that uniform, much less encountered combat ouside a movie or video game.  It is preposterously easy for most of us to go through our daily routines with no hint that our nation is in an armed struggle costing trillions now and into the future and populating VA hositals and counseling agencies with uncounted veterans physically crippled, mentally haunted or both. 

We do not, most of us, feel the dollar cost of our wars—only our descendants will.  We do not, most of us, walk the rehabilitation wards or hear the voices of the violence-stunned and shattered.  Even the news from Iraq and Afghanistan is, for many if not most of us, TMI.

As a jolt of awareness out of respect for today's veterans, then, here are several exhibits brought to us by a free press:

  • War, a book of reporting by Sebastian Junger, covering about five months of life with the 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, Second Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Combat Outpost Restrepo in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
  • "Restrepo," a documentary film covering the same Army unit for the same period.
  • "No Place to Call Home for Many Female Veterans," a report by Susan Kaplan on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, together with other stories about today's veterans.
  • The Good Soldiers, a book of reporting by David Finkel covering 18 months with the Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division in Baghdad, Iraq.
  • "The Last Patrol," a report by Brian Mockenhaupt in the November issue of The Atlantic and discussed on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, covering the final days of 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, Second Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan.