That was the theme of a message delivered by Tennessee Tech University Dean of Nursing Marilyn Musacchio at a candlelight vigil at the Putnam County Courthouse on Thursday night, March 20.
The event, sponsored by the local American Legion, was organized for members of the community to show support for U.S. troops who have been deployed to the Middle East for the nation’s war with Iraq.
" War is not a desirable solution, but when all other avenues have been exhausted to achieve the goal, then there is little room for anything else," Musacchio told the audience.
She also pointed out that many presidents throughout history have been forced to wage war in order to arrive at their ideal goals of peace.
" Throughout history, our presidents have had to make hard and difficult decisions about what would be the best course of action (to take) to achieve and maintain peace," she said.
" We believe that all people of the world have a right to enduring freedom, so once again, our president — President Bush — was called upon to make a difficult decision, and not necessarily a popular one, concerning our responsibility to the people of the world," Musacchio continued.
She spoke of the reasons for her own military service during the Persian Gulf War, when she became only the second woman and the second nurse to ever hold a position as brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserves.
" I chose, as some of you did, to serve our country because I believed in our democracy and freedom," she told the audience. "As a nurse, I could provide the care to our troops as needed."
In peacetime, that meant teaching them ways to protect themselves by maintaining their health and safety. In wartime, that meant providing whatever medical care was needed.
" I wanted them to know that someone did care — and that’s why I’m here tonight," she said. "I cannot go with the troops as they are activated, mobilized and deployed at the direction of our Commander-in-Chief, but I can let them know that I do care, and I can thank them for protecting my freedom and our country."
After the Persian Gulf War, Musacchio assisted the U.S. Surgeon General’s office in evaluating the war from a medical perspective.
That meant that —in her position as assistant to the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs — she was instrumental in helping initiate medical policy that will be used in the current conflict.
Among the findings of the study in which she participated is that soldiers’ families, friends and other loved ones are at an increased risk of psychological danger during times of combat and therefore have a greater need for a strong network of community support.
Musacchio spoke to Thursday night’s audience about that issue as well.
" The absence of the troop members in the family and community create other stresses," she said. "Those left behind have too much time to think about ‘what if,’ and that ‘what if’ time is here for many of you."
" We want families, friends and colleagues of our troops to know that we — the citizens of Cookeville and Putnam County — are here to support you, as well as to support our troops. We ask that you allow us to share these difficult times with you," Musacchio said.
She concluded by expressing her appreciation for the freedom that allowed her to express her own support of the troops, even as it allowed people in other parts of the country to protest the President’s decision.
" It’s difficult to see the demonstrations against the President’s decision and the troops, but I keep reminding myself that this is the freedom I believe in — the freedom to have an opinion, the freedom to demonstrate. We have the right to our beliefs," she said.