Sacrificing for the War Effort at Home

At two war memorials in Washington, D.C., visitors discuss American involvement in Iraq and the idea of sacrifice during wartime. Many say they feel no direct connection to this war.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The word `sacrifice' hung in the air this week. In his speech to the nation about Iraq, President Bush said the images of violence and bloodshed are horrifying, but that the sacrifice is worth it. Some pundits and politicians complained that in this war, many Americans aren't making any sacrifices, and that some may have even forgotten there is war. At the National World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials in Washington, DC, visitors sit for hours, sometimes, reflecting on loss. NPR's Neva Grant went to both places to ask visitors about sacrifice and this war.

VICTORIA WU: My name is Victoria Wu. I'm from Los Angeles. I go to Oak Park High School and I'm 17.

NEVA GRANT reporting:

How is the war changing the day-to-day lives of the students in your high school?

WU: I am ashamed to say I guess that it really doesn't change our life at all because we come from an area where very few men are enlisted. Sometimes people are doing walkouts from the classrooms. That's supposed to be a protest against the war. But the people who end up doing it are actually the ones who want to get out of class, and it has nothing to do with the war. Very few people seem to know anybody who is in the war. It's just--it's sort of ...(unintelligible). It's almost like history that's happening. We might study it, but we're not feeling it.

Mr. DAN RHOAD(ph): My name is Dan Rhoad, originally from Illinois. I was drafted into the Army in and sent to Korea there.

GRANT: Should our politicians be making more of a demand on average citizens to somehow sacrifice more during this time?

Mr. RHOAD: What would you sacrifice? I mean, outside of fuel. You know, it isn't like there's lack of food or anything like that to send over there. As far as donations, so many people were sending so many things that they told them to quit in certain things. So I don't know how much we can do here as a people rather than we're doing.

Mr. JIM OXBURGER(ph): My name is Jim Oxburger. I'm from Columbus, Ohio.

Ms. LINDA OXBURGER: Linda Oxburger, Columbus, Ohio.

Mr. OXBURGER: I guess the only thing I do, and it's really not a sacrifice, is we do take more time to pray for our troops over there, and also to pray for the Iraqi people. But that's not a big sacrifice. No, I get in the car and I drive to work every day and I--it doesn't really take any more effort on my part to what they're doing over in Iraq.

Ms. OXBURGER: Yeah, I don't think Americans feel engaged in the war because they're not asked to participate in it by conserving or like our parents were asked.

Ms. OLLIE MAY BARNETT(ph): I'm Ollie May Barnett. I remember World War II, and it just affected all of us, with the ration books, and gasoline was rationed. We had those little cards up in the back of the car saying what you could get and what you couldn't get.

GRANT: Do you know anyone who is over in Iraq right now?

Ms. BARNETT: Do we know anyone in Iraq, Jim?

JIM: No. No.

Ms. BARNETT: That's why World War II is so close to us. It was every household, every. Had those pictures of the boys in the drugstore window, the ones overseas, and that kind of thing.

Mr. LESLIE GILBERT(ph): My name is Leslie Gilbert. Yeah, we lost more guys at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and the Battle of the Bulge, even of those individual ones, than we have even approached losing in the Iraq War, but the principles of this country are the same as they were then.

GRANT: Do you think Americans today should be asked to, in any way, acknowledge the war? Are we being asked to do enough?

Mr. GILBERT: Well, you know, we have this energy problem. Mr. and Mrs. America--and they want to drive their big SUVs because they think the laws of restraint and sacrifice applies to those other guys, not me.

GRANT: Have you tried to cut back in your fuel consumption since that's an example you've raised?

Mr. GILBERT: Yes, I do, by coordinating chores that have to be done and cover three or four chores at once, and I do more walking.

Mr. VINCE KINNEY(ph): My name is Vince Kinney. I went to Vietnam in 1968 and I left in January 1970. I was all over the central highlands: Bac Lieu, Kontum, Bien Het(ph), Pleasurang(ph), Pleime, DakTo. The whole point of the military is to keep the people at home from sacrificing at home. If they want to say thanks to the soldiers, they can. If they don't, they're entitled to that opinion. That's why we go to war.

Ms. VALERIE SWITZER(ph): When you think about a war, you think of sacrifice as supporting the war, as opposed to using sacrifice to oppose the war. My name is Valerie Switzer. I was very much against the Vietnam War, and very much against this war, but I--truthfully, I don't feel involved on the same level. All I've done, really, is attended a couple demonstrations, sent some money to support candidates who would have us get out of the war.

Mr. JERRY EVANS: My name is Jerry Evans(ph) and I personally don't know that I know anyone over in Iraq and I do find it harder, harder to tap into what other people might be feeling because I'm only imagining it.

Ms. CARLA JONES: People that don't have nobody over there do not understand. My name is Carla Jones. I'm from Magee, Mississippi, representing Troop 135 Girl Scouts.

GRANT: Do you know anyone fighting in Iraq right now?

Ms. JONES: Yes, we've got a couple. Her husband--What's his name?

Unidentified Woman #1: Gray.

Unidentified Woman #2: Joseph Gray(ph).

Ms. JONES: My brother over there, Terrence Jones(ph). Her son is over there, Mrs. Charbull's(ph).

GRANT: What is your full name?

Ms. CHARMAINE CHARBULL(ph): Charmaine Charbull.

GRANT: Your son is over there?

Ms. CHARBULL: My son, Terry Holloway(ph), is over there. I think really all America can do is just be very supportive of our military and of the people that have people over there. They have organizations in the community that organized letter-writing. When my son was in the First Gulf War, he said the soldiers would line up at mail call, some that didn't get mail, their face was so disappointed, and the ones that got mail their face just lit up really good. So yeah...

GRANT: Is there anything else Americans should be doing?

Ms. CHARBULL: Pray. Pray. Like I do. I ask God to put my son--angels in front of him every night. And, of course, to watch over every other mother's son that's over there, and that's about it. Pray.

MONTAGNE: Visitors to the National World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials in Washington, DC. They spoke with NPR's Neva Grant.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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