October 17, 2005

25... 24... 23... 22...

Just in case anyone has forgotten, US soldiers continue to die in Iraq. At this moment, the stats say that we're just 24 martyrs away from two thousand.

I've been pretty silent on this topic for a long while now. I didn't chime in with the obvious, "Where were the national guard when Katrina hit? Oh, yeah, Iraq!" I have not mentioned the indictment of Tom Delay or the growing black cloud over Carl Rove and Scotter Libby. It's good to know, though, that if any are convicted of a crime, Bush will probably ask them to leave their jobs before he pardons them at the end of his term. I've stayed away from the supreme court nominations--mostly because I have no opinion on them--and only stood by silently, mildly amused at the run-up to Hurricane Rita, as I pondered the no-win situation for Bush: If Texas were over-served by military and national guard, he'd look like he played favorites. If Texas were under-served, he'd look like a two-time failure.

There, I've had my say on those. But let's not forget Iraq and the soldiers there, the Americans being killed and injured for the sake of... what, exactly? I forget. First it was WMD. Then it was to get rid of a brutal dictator. Then it was to secure and rebuild the country we'd bombed to smithereens. Then it was to "stay the course" in order not to disrespect the deaths already suffered.

A week ago I was chatting with the custodian at my kids' school. He mentioned he was treated like pond scum when he returned from Viet Nam--people actually came to the airport to insult and accost him and his fellow soldiers as they finally arrived back on US soil. Tragic. I have another good friend, in the Army, who has a support role for troops in Iraq; he lives on a base overseas and frequently visits Iraq as part of his job. Many wives and children live on the base, often not hearing any news of their husbands and fathers for days at a time, knowing they are in danger every minute.

We just held a memorial service for my father-in-law on Saturday, and it was really wonderful how many friends showed up, the stories they told, the love for him. Most of us would consider him young at his death--just 63. All of us will miss him, think about him often, feel the absence of him at holidays, on sunny weekends, when the wind is high, whenever I see a sail on bay or lake or river or ocean.

1,976 American soldiers dead in Iraq. Every one of them has a story, people who loved them, people who will mourn them for years to come. I am no expert on grief, and I hope I never become more than its casual acquaintance. Grief knows no economic, ethnic, or educational boundaries.

Where are all those voices who cried out in support of Terry Schiavo's parents? All those who tried so desperately to keep that one unfortunate woman on life support indefinitely? Why are they not crying out to save #1,977? Will not the parents, spouse, children, friends, cousins all mourn #1,977 as sincerely and powerfully as Terry's parents mourn her?

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