December 23, 2005
2005: The Year of the Good Soldier-Samaritan

By Tom Bevan

There’s 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 terrorist insurgency.

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.

Like all 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 intentions.

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 its history.

This holiday 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.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics.

Tom Bevan

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