The Guy On Your Right, The Guy On Your Left

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Maybe we’ve made some progress. Despite the nation’s fatigue with these endless wars, we do not harangue the returning warriors in the airports — as so many did in the throes of the Vietnam War.

We have learned to honor our warriors, no matter what we think of the war they’ve had to fight on our behalf.

Still, we put the whole thing on the credit card and often offer only lip-service support — shedding tears on Memorial Day, then turning quickly away.

Blame politicians who wanted us to believe we could fight a war with drones and satellite targeting — without paying that dreaded cost in blood and trauma.

Blame a generation of peace and prosperity, which made us focus on new cars and flat screens, without calculating the cost to those who remained on the ramparts.

Blame the unintended consequence of shifting to an all-volunteer force, which fashioned the most capable military in the history of the world, but who increasingly bear the sacrifice within a tight circle.

So we felt a lift this weekend when professional bass fishermen staged Warriors on the Water, to offer a relative handful of veterans a chance to spend the day strategizing the best way to get a bass on a hook in the sun-splashed waters of Roosevelt Lake.

The group included veterans of every war since World War II, including many who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That included Staff Sgt. Thomas Boyd, a National Guardsman from the Valley who invaded Iraq in the first wave and then served a tour in Afghanistan. He’s one of thousands of regulars and reservists who have served repeated tours, spending years overseas in harm’s way as their families grew up and others took their jobs.

Like Staff Sgt. Boyd, many of the returning veterans have worked hard to fit back into a civilian population for whom the intense, deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan seem like some distant dream — something that happens to someone else’s family, someone else’s son, someone else’s husband.

Certainly, we can debate the merits of the war. We can lament the false premises. We can bemoan the frustrating effort to transform an almost feudal society.

But we know this: We owe much to those who answered the call of their country, including those 32 veterans bobbing around on bass boats Saturday morning.

Staff Sgt. Boyd said it best, in explaining the courageous devotion of those few who now stand atop the wall.

“It’s not about whether the war is worth it,” he said. “It’s about serving your country — and protecting the guy on your right and the guy on your left.”

Police problems

Yet another Payson police officer has left under alarming circumstances. We don’t yet have a full accounting of what prompted the forced resignation of a Payson officer who recently got a second chance after a demotion for “sexting.” But department officials say the resigning officer could face criminal trespassing charges.

But even without knowing the details of that case, we have growing concerns about the behavior of far too many Payson police officers.

Reportedly, the department has eight vacancies at the moment — although the numbers remain inconsistent. Some of those vacancies stem from normal retirements and turnover. Far too many stem from the discharge or resignation of officers who have done things like harassing ex-girlfriends, pursuing sexual relationships with confidential informants or consuming alcohol while on duty.

Now, the alarming behavior of a few officers should not overshadow the professionalism and competence of the rest of the force. First-rate police work last week resulted in the arrest of an armed robbery suspect and associates on unrelated drug charges and warrants bears witness to the work of many officers.

Moreover, despite the shortage of officers for the past two years, the Payson crime rate has remained mercifully low.

Still, we believe the town council should focus intensely on this unfortunate series of resignations, demotions and firings. The pattern established should set off a not-so-silent alarm in town hall.

And we could not help but notice one other unsettling point in the preliminary account of the latest forced resignation.

The resigning officer and another who is retiring will get a combined total of $57,000 in unused comp time.

Please note: That’s more than a lot of people paying the taxes that pay their salaries make in a year.

Now, we don’t know how much of that will go to the officer first demoted for unprofessional behavior and then forced to resign for potentially criminal behavior. But whatever the total — it’s way too much.

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