A friend is heading home on leave from Iraq today. I thought I’d write him a note—then I decided to publish it here:

Dear _____, I am at an uncharacteristic loss for words. Hence, I don’t know what to say other than “Thank you.” As we both know, the war is a contentious issue here in the Homeland. Many think we must indeed stay the course; at least as many think the war is a reckless, counterproductive disaster.

Well, history is my hobby, and there is nothing new under the sun. On 4 July 1776, the majority of our Colonist forebears thought war with Great Britain was sheer madness. And so it has been ever since. Civil War proponents and opponents, North and South, were about evenly divided—and insanely passionate about their respective views. In WWI, Wilson was seen as a madman. In the “obvious” WWII where the stakes were “clear,” millions upon millions thought FDR was a mad warmonger. And we all know about “my war”—Vietnam. I was in I Corps-Danang for the 4th in 1966—while at Kent State just a couple of years later the level of disputatiousness rose to a point where domestic blood flowed, children’s blood no less.

The Middle East is a godawful mess. We will argue for 100 years about the rightness or wrongness of the path we have chosen. But whether through diplomacy or arms, there must be some sort of resolution, most especially for the sake of your children and mine—that’s always the point in the long run.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart—especially on this special day. Your stunning sacrifice and willingness to voluntarily place yourself in Harm’s Way is the price, alas, virtually every generation has borne to honor that tiny band of “insaniacs” (later called “Founding Fathers”) who concluded on this date 231 years ago that their flavor of Freedom was important enough to merit David bearding Goliath—the odds of their success on 07.04.1776 were miniscule, the price of their almost certain failure, unspeakable.

Thank you, TJP