In my many years of preparation and participation in war I was never really given a direct answer to why we were at war. Of course there was the consistent reminder that finding and killing Bin Laden would somehow bring vindication for the 2,000 innocent civilians who died on 9/11. But why were we willing to loose another lot of military lives for this goal; which was seen as marginal at best by any educated military strategists. The truth was, by the time we had chased the rabbit down the hole enough to see his tail, the journey back to daylight didn’t seem worth the trouble anymore. To further this analogy where Bin laden is the rabbit, even bringing the rabbit back up with us wouldn’t feed the appetite we had conjured in chasing it. In other words, killing Bin Laden wasn’t going to make our country safer, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to make amends for the men and women dying daily in Afghanistan and Iraq fighting Al-Quaeda and the Taliban.

So again, why was I going to war, why were we at war? The answer never came to me through Fox News, or CNN. It was never echoed by Dana Perino or Jay Carney at some press brief. Even the reasons given by our intelligence community to top officials were lackluster and unattached at best.

The answer was simple. We went to war to fight an enemy, simply because there was an enemy to be fought. Americans, perhaps at our own demise (see Vietnam, possibly Iraq, and soon to be Afghanistan) are torn between the romantic ideals of being somehow enlightened, elevated beyond the fundamental human characteristic of pride and vindication, and the inevitable appetite all societies have to defend, to the death, the parcel of land they’ve gained with blood and claimed with a piece of fabric woven from their tricolored identity: for us it’s red, white and blue.

In the 80’s and 90’s we had a taste, a scent, of danger thrown our way through embassy bombings, harassment and attack of naval vessels and failed attempts on home soil. But when we saw those towers fall, it could’ve been 2 or 2 million Americans who died; once an enemy took responsibility we were set on killing that enemy. To quote the Byronic hero of most comic books, “I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth to get you.” So that’s what we did. At the ages of 18 and 25 and 30 we volunteered to get our chance at killing just one of these monstrous people who dared to attack our home. And in droves we deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, knowing little, if anything, about the operational objectives and administrative goals that were actually being set and achieved for our time in combat. We fought proudly, through economic disparity and presidential regime changes we fought consistently. We died consistently.

In 2010 I lost my legs in Afghanistan still believing the poster boy theology that, “since I can’t tell you why we are here, I’ll tell you I’m fighting for the guy beside me.” Which, in fact, made absolutely no sense to me at all simply because, that only brings me to the next question… “Why is he here?” The answer was much simpler, much more innate, the answer could be found in Caesar, Alexander, Frederick and Napoleon. Why was I, were we, fighting? Because there was an enemy to fight, that’s why. Some group of possibly genius, or equally as ignorant, people had expressed to the world a discontent for my home, my country, and taken fatal actions against it. I didn’t need a history lesson on Charlie Wilson or Russia to understand that no matter the protagonist, “if the Tali want to scrap, we’ll scrap.” That’s what humans do, we draw lines in sand and rather than dare people to cross them we simply provide a diplomatic route around them. Then when someone, or some group, deems it necessary to drag their bulky fat foot foot through OUR lines in the sand we respond with force, and with righteous vindication on our side.

So I deployed, first to Iraq, and then to Afghanistan for that exact purpose. To remind the rest of the world that my lines in the sand mean something, that we stand for something, if only ourselves. I understand that these wars seem to be revolving doors of political agendas and changing public interest, but rather than choosing the easier path, I chose to step inside, hold my section just between two revolving panels, and fight my way through until the goddamn door quit working or my body quit walking. In which case it did, both literally and figuratively.

I went to war because there was an enemy to be sought out and held accountable. Not for the sins of my forefathers, or the mistakes of my leaders, but for the actions, however provoked, of my enemies.