Beyond having read of him as a hero of Fallujah and author of a powerful book about the battle, it was this that secured David Bellavia a spot in my memory.
The part of the film that stuck with me was David Bellavia talking about the response he received from parents of the children's soccer team he was coaching when his book about the first Battle of Fallujah came out. The parents were horrified to discover the violent things Bellavia had done while fighting in Fallujah; they acted as if they expected his capacity for lethal violence would burst out again at any moment [and endanger them all].
As Bellavia points out, the parents' responses are indicative of the discomfort many civilians feel with what warriors do in wartime, and how that affects their interactions with and opinion of veterans.
Now he's talking about the proper response that he and his fellow veterans of Iraq aren't getting...
The ones that hold my contempt are those who, even today, know of the sacrifice made, the incredible progress gained and still will not acknowledge what was won on the ground in Iraq. They cheapen the sacrifice of how it was earned. Operation Iraqi Freedom is no more.
Operation New Dawn (the exact same name of the Battle of Fallujah in November 2004) is the new name of the deployment to Iraq.
What we achieved in the face of an implacable enemy, overcoming many in our own government willfully ignorant of our struggle, is what I believe to be the defining moment of my generation. The veteran today is the embodiment of what it means to be an American. Even when our valor was used for political sport, we continued to serve quietly....As the pages turn, so does the dispositions on the faces in the pictures. The exhaustion of combat has replaced the frolic; dead-eyed stares in place of jovial laughter. We lost far too many men during our war in Iraq. Then the unit returned for a second deployment, and the number spiked to more than seventy.
...I came home expecting to find the sacrifice of these brave patriots revered at every turn by those who overwhelmingly sent us to war from Washington.
You know the result of that expectation, but this is truly a case of read it all. As one commenter mentions, this is what I have struggled to explain to the clueless.
Postscript: I remember talking last spring to someone who was working toward holding a Victory-in-Iraq parade in July. He lamented that he couldn't seem to galvanize many people to action, even among the most ardent and active troop supporters. I told him I was very sorry to say that though they deserved a parade, I thought the political realities ensured nothing but bad could come from it. I hugged him repeatedly with tears in my eyes, knowing where his heart was as a Vietnam veteran.
Is indifference better than contempt?
Update: Lex says it perfectly (why am I not surprised?). "Their reward, it seems, will be no punishment."