February 06, 2008
The Flag has to come first
if freedom is to survive.
--Col Steven Arrington--
Every once in a while, something on the internet takes my breath away.
This is something I don't like to talk about because it makes me seem cold and cruel. I also think it makes me somewhat out-of-the-ordinary. And some will think I'm plain psycho for even thinking such things. But I believe in the premise of this article, that man is dispensible for the greater cause.
My husband is one of those dispensible men.
I have tried to come to terms with exactly how that makes me feel. And Lord knows I don't ever want to have to put my convictions to the test. But should I have to, I will come back and read that article again and find solace, and I will try very hard to remember in my grief what I knew to be true before grief struck.
I have thought about this a lot over the past years, as you must when your husband's job is war. But I've thought about it in other scenarios too. There was an episode of 24 where terrorists hold a wife and kid hostage and send dad out to provide a detonator to the man holding a nuke. Dad would do anything to save his family, even enable a nuclear weapon.
I put myself in those shoes, and I just couldn't do it. There's no way I could kill 20,000 to save my 2. I'm not going to go Keyser Soze on my family, but there's no way I will cooperate in arming a nuclear device just to save my husband.
He and I have also talked about this in regards to Jill Carroll and the Brit hostages. I will not beg and grovel, I will not trade his life for the lives of others, and I will remember in my heart the brave Fabrizio Quattrocchi as I do the hardest thing that could ever be asked of a person.
My husband is dispensible.
I do not say that lightly. Not at all. The moment I typed the words, I felt the beginning of tears.
But my personal happiness is not more important than my country. I will do my best to remember this, even when I often think that the Middle East is not worthy of my husband. I will remember that surely there were wives who thought that their husbands' lives were not worth taxation without representation, the end of slavery in far away states, or fear of the domino effect. Yet they sacrificed their husbands, and I would do the same.
That is our profession. Harooh.
I think the movie 300 took people by surprise. The Spartans were not a perfect society, not by a long shot, but they lived by the credo that men are dispensible for Sparta. And the movie resonated with people because they still want to believe that such men are out there. They want to believe that 300 would step up and defend our country too, risking all.
But I think they're afraid that those 300 don't exist. Most of the moviegoers don't number among them.
Some have asked me how I'd feel to get pregnant before my husband deploys. The thought makes me sick to my stomach. I want to raise a child with my husband or not at all. But I asked him while I was pregnant if it made him feel better or worse that he would leave a child behind should something happen to him. He said he did find comfort in thinking like the Spartans, that only men with progeny should be sent to battle. Thus I pray we get pregnant before he leaves again soon, so he has the peace of knowing that his legacy lives on.
And as hard as it is for me to think of my husband as dispensible, it will be all the harder to think of that child as dispensible too.
But the flag comes first.
(Thanks to Kim du Toit for the article and for writing "Not all of us are at the mall. We are with you as surely is if weÂ’re going out on patrol with you, or standing next to you in the chow line back at camp.")
I sat on this one for a while, mulling it over. And in the meantime, I came across an article that Baldilocks' father wrote.
If you are so convinced that an ideal is vital for your society, then shouldnÂ’t you make it your duty to live long enough to help your society to realise it? Once you are dead, of what use are you?
But, clearly, a soldier is much more important than a tool. That is why the law on self-preservation is even more significant to humans. Sure, a good soldier fights bravely in battle. But his bravery must include every stratagem that helps him to return to base unharmed.
Only then can he be available for another battle. Hence the saying: Live for your country: never deliberately die for it.
Trust me when I say that we also know this to be true. No one was more diligent about not dying needlessly than my husband was the last time he was in Iraq. (That's why he put two soldiers in jail when they failed to ensure the safety of the other men.)
My husband is the last man to promote swashbuckling or chest-thumping. But some must go to fight the Dragons, and those men must be ready to be dispensible.
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