December 23, 2005
2005: The Year of the Good Soldier-Samaritan
no better time than the holiday season to reflect on the parable
of the Good Samaritan. Most know the story told by Jesus in the
Book of Luke: a man falls prey to thieves on the road from Jerusalem
to Jericho. As the man lies there stripped, wounded and half-dead,
a priest walks by and then a Levite. Neither stop to help, but
instead cross to the other side of the road and continue on their
way. Finally, a Samaritan comes along, binds the poor stranger’s
wounds, takes him to an inn where he pays the man’s way
and tells the innkeeper: “take care of him; and whatever
thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.”
There are Samaritans all around us every day,
of course, doing good deeds both big and small. Sometimes we read
about them in the local paper or see their exploits on the evening
news. Sometimes we experience the kind act of a Samaritan first-hand.
And every so often throughout the year we ourselves play the part
of the Samaritan; offering a kind word, holding a door, donating
our time or our money to strangers in need.
But as we sit back and reflect on a year filled
with such turmoil and human tragedy, it should be obvious who
the true Samaritans are: the members of the United States military.
Let us be crystal clear: the primary purpose of
our Armed Forces is not to run around the world and do good deeds
but to kill our enemies and protect and defend the United States
of America. Be that as it may, nowhere else can you find a group
of individuals doing more good for more people across the globe.
Nowhere else can you find a group of professionals more courageous
or more committed to the honorable principles to which they’ve
pledged their lives.
This year, perhaps more than any other, we’ve
seen the power of the U.S. Soldier-Samaritan. Stretched thin and
under enormous pressure, the U.S. military demonstrated extraordinary
skill and compassion over the last twelve months. Time and again
they’ve been the velvet tip of a most lethal spear.
Consider how the year started: by the time the
ball dropped in Times Square ringing in the first minutes of 2005,
the death toll from the tsunami in Southeast Asia stood at 140,000
– a number that would eventually climb by some estimates
to an unimaginable 275,000 dead.
In the first 45 days of 2005 (plus the last four
days of 2004) the United States military flew 3,617 recon and
relief missions delivering more than 24 million pounds of food,
medicine and supplies to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Military
medics also treated more than 2,200 injured survivors.
Now consider how the year ended: on December 15,
more than 10 million Iraqis went to the polls to elect a new government.
This represented the most free, most fair election ever held in
the region, conducted with little to no violence amid an ongoing
In between these two events there were two other
elections in Iraq (January 31 and October 15), an election in
Afghanistan (September 18), domestic relief efforts in the aftermath
of Katrina (late August, early September) , and international
relief efforts in northern Pakistan after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake
ripped through the region on October 8 killing more than 80,000
and leaving 3 million without shelter. All of these accomplishments
were facilitated almost exclusively by the might and the effort
of the U.S. military.
And these are just big things we know about because
they made the news. Obscured by such institutional achievements
are the innumerable individual acts of kindness committed this
year by men and women wearing a United States uniform on behalf
of complete strangers.
humans, members of the U.S. military are neither without fault
nor incapable of bad judgment. Yet nothing could be more slanderous,
or further from the truth, than to suggest the vast majority of
soldiers and commanders of the U.S. armed forces aren’t
executing their missions with highest integrity and the best of
Sadly, the media is obsessed with printing allegations
of abuse, counting dead bodies, and sensationalizing episodes
of misconduct, despite the warped impression it generates in the
mind of the public about who the vast majority of our Soldier-Samaritans
are and what they do on our behalf every single day. Some of our
highest elected officials have contributed to distorting the image
of U.S. troops with morally obtuse comparisons and the reckless
choosing of words.
Anti-American folks abroad and the anti-military
crowd at home purposefully blind themselves to the great good
performed by U.S. troops every year. The truth, however, is that
the world has never seen a more compassionate fighting force in
season we should all think hard about what it means to be a Samaritan.
And we should pray for the safety of our men and women in uniform,
because they are the true Good Soldier-Samaritans of the global
age. It’s time all Americans recognize them as such.
Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics.