One Man’s Raison D’etre

“There must be, within our Army, a sense of purpose and a dedication to that purpose.  There must be a willingness to march a little farther, to carry a heavier load, to step out into darkness and the unknown for the safety and well-being of others.” – General Creighton Abrams

There is an old Chinese curse that says, “May he live in interesting times.”  During the past 50+ years, I have always lived in interesting times.  Can you imagine some Army Generals standing in front of a group of LTCs, COLs, or CSMs announcing that the next two years “is going to be boring”?  

In the return to nation state competition, the US is engaged in contingency operations across the globe while competing with near peer nation states.  Pick up any military related document emerging from government offices in Washington, DC, and it will address how we are competing with near peer adversaries, preparing for crisis and conflict, fighting violent extremist organizations, and addressing danger to the homeland while regionally aligning Army units and maturing MultiDomain Operations in large scale combat operations. The potential for large scale combat operations is present.  The future environment is “unknown, unknowable and forever changing”.  You must be able to mitigate the unknown and predict the unknowable.  I’m a firm believer current and near-term contingency operations (wars) directed at violent extremist organizations did not start on 11 Sep 2001.   I believe it started 4 November 1979 when Iranian “students” seized our Embassy in Iran and the world watched as the US was unable to retaliate for this assault on US soil.  

Many say contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were unlike any war we have fought.  I agree but add every war has been different from all previous wars.  We’ve never fought the same war twice and never will.  Some compare Iraq and Afghanistan to Viet Nam and there are some similarities.  The enemy employed similar tactics.  Viet Nam was a nation state war using an insurgency where Politics, Economics and Social structure divided a people.  It was a hot war within the Cold War, bi-polar world with domestic considerations as a backdrop that influenced military operations.  There are some similarities with recent operations because the adversarial leaders observed and learned the lessons of Korea, Viet Nam and other so called small wars.  (I say “so called” because when you are being shot at, there is nothing small about it.)  Current adversaries understand that the “will” of the American people is the ultimate High Value Target and they use asymmetric means as an effective method to attack the target (just like the North Vietnamese).  They know that “Patience” is not an enduring trait of the American people.  History demonstrates they can win by not quitting.  They conduct hybrid operations across diplomatic, information, economic, military actions short of army conflict to achieve strategic aims.  

Recent Overseas Contingency Operations were different.  While the hottest of the hot were fought in selected regions, it is a Global conflict.  The Army is engaged across the globe.  Our kinetic focus in the Middle East, Southwest Asia and Africa is matched by our non-kinetic operations in South America, the Pacific and Europe.  Support to the Ukraine threatens to bring the US into direct contact with Russian forces.   We are fighting adversaries that threaten the Continental United States not only with lethal attack but has the goal of permanently changing our way of life.  It can be (has been) characterized as a War of Survival.  It is a war between violent extremism and forces of moderation or tolerance with peer competition influencing the allocation of resources.  Our adversaries adapt and use hybrid warfare concepts that do not follow “norms”.  The goal of the US is to eliminate extremist activities as a threat to the world community and meet the peer threats with deterrent capabilities that will win if committed to combat operations.  The goal of our adversaries is to eliminate our democratic way of life since it threatens the existence of their desired lifestyle or governing philosophy.  As with the past, this is not a war being fought for this generation, but for future generations.  The outcome will determine the world for our children and grandchildren.  As in the past, the profession of arms determined the environment for future generations.  This has been the case in all our conflicts.  They’ve all been about the future and setting environmental conditions for future generations.   Soldiers fought for the children.  


There is a scene at the end of the Star Trek movie “The Wrath of Khan” in which Spock is dying.  Kirk asks Spock . . .” Why” did you do it.  Spock answers “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”  This is the lesson my father taught me when I was growing up in Arkansas but did not really understand until about three months into my tour in Viet Nam.  “It is not about you Jerry; it is about other people.”  The needs of others are more important than my needs.  In the Army, each soldier represents the “one” that serves the “many”.  Service not just for today, but for the future.  The “many” represent future generations.  Remember the John Wayne movie “The Green Berets” . . . the final scene where John Wayne is walking on the beach with the boy . . .  he says, “You are what this war is all about.”  That encapsulates who the profession of arms serves . . . the children.

Whether you realize it or not, everything you do is For The Children.  Not just your children or the children in the United States, but the children of the world.

Every time Reserve Component soldiers conduct a monthly battle assembly or Active Component soldiers execute a major training exercise, it is For The Children.  You are preparing for those times when you must deploy for a contingency where you will make a difference in the lives of children.

Every time soldiers respond to major disasters; it is For the Children.  Someday, the children of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, New York and dozens of other states will thank the soldiers of the Army National Guard and other military personnel for their efforts following the natural disasters that occurred in their hometown.

Every time a TRADOC school graduates a class of soldiers and they report to their next duty assignment, it is For the Children.  Those soldiers represent the next generation of military professionals that shape the environment of tomorrow.

Every time the I-CDID develops capability documents or new force structures, it is For the Children.  These efforts enables future operations.

Every time soldiers deploy to a distant country, they do it For the Children.  They bring their courage to shape a secure and stable environment.  The men that stood their ground at Lexington and Concord did so for their children.  The men at Gettysburg did so for their children.  The Soldiers and Marines of the 2nd Division at Belleau Wood, many now buried in the nearby Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, persevered for their children.  The men that stormed the beaches at Normandy knew their success would determine the future for their children.  The 5,076 of our military dead (including General George Patton) in the Luxembourg American Cemetery gave the “last full measure” for their children.   The soldiers that held the Pusan Peninsula and bought the time for an allied counterattack did so for their children.  Cemeteries across the US contain those that fell in Hue, Pleiku, Kontum, Can Tho, Long Binh and thousands of other locations in Southeast Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The argument continues on whether the US won or lost in these contingencies.  There is evidence that the American people lost the will and the patience to win.  We fail victim to our adversary’s hybrid campaigns and our impatience for rapid favorable results aided by the nightly news recounting of American Soldiers being killed. Our current adversaries are well organized and well versed on the use of social media and the various “news” networks.  They learned from the past and are very patient.  Their information campaign is designed to cause Americans to lose the will and the patience to win.  This is true not only for the Violent Extremist Organizations, but also North Korea, Iran, The Talban, Russia and China.  They are counting on social media outlets and the news media combined with the rhetoric of the various political parties to create an environment whereby the American people are willing to lose.  Their combined agenda is to replace US leadership position in the world.  This is especially true of China.  The CCP’s goal is to regain the hegemony enjoyed from 400BC to early 20th Century over large portion of the world.  The leadership believes that China is the Middle Kingdom that must reign over “all under heaven”.   

I’ve watched the changing attitudes of the American people from the Viet Nam era, when the Pentagon discourage the wearing of uniforms while traveling.  To 1990 when citizens stood and waved flags as soldiers deployed to Desert Shield / Desert Storm.  Today, across the United States, citizens are thanking military personnel for their service.  You see it in airports.  You see it in the media.  You see it at sporting events.  Hopefully, the American people will (someday) look past the political debates, budget woes, mistakes, and exploitation of the media by our adversaries and have the patience necessary to win.  

John F Kennedy stated, “The 1930s taught us a clear lesson:  aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war”.   Future generations depend on our ability to see beyond today.  Sacrifices today ensure a better tomorrow for the children of the world.   The legacy of the US Military is not the soldiers returned to civilian life, not the wars fought, not the battlefield victories, and certainly not the national leaders created.  The legacy of the US Military is the safe, secure and stable environment created FOR THE CHILDREN.

Mark Twain is credited with this statement: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

When my time comes and “Taps” is played, let it be said, let it be written, let it be understood that I did it For The Children.


Jerry W. Jones
US Army Retired
GG15 Civilian Retired

2 Dec 2022

“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – WINSTON CHURCHILL

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” – ALBERT EINSTEIN


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