The Atlantic

How to Really Honor the Troops

Thousands of soldiers have successfully led combat units without committing atrocities. Pardoning war crimes dishonors them.
Source: Vanessa Gera / AP

Two letters, two numbers.

The email to me, inviting me to dinner, began with two seemingly random letters, followed by two numbers. My assistant was the first one who read the email and was confused.

But I wasn’t. I smiled.

Once upon a time, I didn’t wear any visible rank or insignia, but if a ranger or another special operator saw those two letters and two numbers on a Velcro patch on my sleeve in the middle of the night, or heard those two letters and two numbers over a radio, he wouldn’t have needed to know me personally to know precisely who he was speaking to: an officer, for one, and an officer leading a particular unit. If a firefight started, or

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