This is a really difficult issue, rife with emotion, perfect for demagoguery.
Chris Hayes, a guy whose show I've never watched, got in hot water (to put it mildly) for saying, perhaps inartfully, something I've said here as recently as a few days ago: we love and idealize wars too much in this country, and too easily equate patriotism with fighting them. Calling the fallen soldiers heroic, while certainly true on many levels, also enables the overlooking of the horror of our own creation to which we send them; lets us ignore how terrible war is, how much we damage the people we send to fight them. And makes it too easy, I think, to shame people away from asking questions, which is probably the most dangerous aspect of all.
Whereas it's individually appropriate, and can't be overstated regarding those in the trenches (I served in Vietnam, in case you didn't know, was injured in a rocket attack, have run to tend to wounded as Cobra helicopters fired overhead: I've seen heroes, and I'm not one of them), promoting hero-worship is also an easy way for leaders to keep minds off what's going on. In some ways, weeping over heroism is a self-indulgent act of assuaging our own guilt. Worse, exploited cynically by those who benefit from war, politically and financially, it becomes an all-too-effortless substitute for the hard work of living in a democracy, an innoculation from criticism. Some pretty bad people know it all too well.
To bring that subject up is, as I see it, neither unpatriotic nor disrespectful. In an open and democratic society, it is, in fact, the opposite. Which, of course, is exactly why the RWS™, who have less love for democracy than they have for the black guy in the white house, have jumped on Chris Hayes (and, of course, on all liberals) like a Medal of Honor winner on a grenade. (Except none of them have ever served nor would have had the instincts to do it.) From their armchairs and sound studios, they loves them some war. Mitt Romney, looks like, loves him some war even more. In service of that proposition, they equate questioning with lack of patriotism, hating the troops, treason (a word tossed around by teabaggRs like frisbees by the hirsute). And, with far too many people, they've succeeded in over-eye-pulling the wool.
That it's nearly impossible to have such a discussion rationally doesn't mean Mr. Hayes shouldn't have tried. His apology was honest and heartfelt, I think; but his original words were meaningful. It's something we should be talking about. With our volunteer army and unpaid-for wars, it is too easy for us; saluting the flag with tears in our eyes as soldiers and veterans march by seems to fill the bill for many of us, and is a hell of a lot less difficult than paying for their care; or than setting aside selfishness and prejudice for the common good, sacrificing something real, compromising, as real patriots should do. If heroes are people who are sent (unprepared in the case of Iraq) to an unnecessary or unwinnable war and are killed or maimed fighting it, so, in these polarized and hateful times, are those willing to question it or try to prevent it in the first place. It should be harder to send kids to fight and die than it seems to be, less easy to ignore the realities by calling it heroism. And it should be easier to debate the wisdom of it all.