September 29, 2004

SALUTE

I heard a wonderful story, via my favorite reservist, that I am printing here with his permission. It's an anecdote from Kuwait when he was leaving Iraq for his R&R:

This morning at around 0530, I was walking to breakfast. I noticed the flag raising detail was in place but haven't heard any music so I kept walking. I passed a First Sergeant that was standing at attention and in front of him, a Marine, also at attention. I snapped to attention next to him and remarked that I had not heard any music. The First Sergeant relaxed and said that it hadn't started yet. So we both continued to walk towards the Dining Facility.

I pointed to the Marine still standing there at attention. The First Sergeant called over that it was still going to be a few more minutes if he wanted to keep walking. The Marine looked over and said, "No, I'm going to wait. It's been a long time since I've seen our flag raised."

That stopped me immediately. It has been a long time since I've seen our flag raised as we're prohibited from flying the Stars and Stripes in Iraq. I turned to the First Sergeant and said, "He's right, I'm waiting." A few minutes later the music started. The three of us snapped to attention and saluted.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:55 AM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
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September 14, 2004

INNOCENT

James Lileks took something very interesting away from his encounter with a young DNC canvasser:

“Tell me what you believe,” I said. “Tell me what you feel in your head and heart about John Kerry.”

Whereupon she said that the War in Iraq was wrong and was “killing all those innocent soldiers,” and someone the other day said that if we didn’t elect him Bush would have another 9/11, but she didn’t know who said it.

“But tell me why I should vote for John Kerry,” I said. Gently, mind you. With a smile.

“I don’t know,” she said.

I said I would think about it; I thanked her for her time and closed the door.

I mention this not to prove that DONKS ARE ALL IDIOTS because that’s as boring as REPUGS ARE ALL CROOKS or whatever. Yes, everyone on the other side is evil. Noted. I bring this up because it’s the third time the DNC has sent a canvasser to my neighborhood who’s utterly lost as soon as she gets beyond a talking point. Which means nothing, perhaps; it’s a safe district. Send out the newbies to learn on the job. But I kept thinking of the way she phrased the deaths in Iraq: “all those innocent soldiers.” That’s how some see the soldiers in Iraq.

If asked to describe the attributes of a Marine, “innocent” would not be among the first 100 adjectives I’d employ.

When we inprocessed here, we went to a week-long German language and culture course. Sitting right behind us that week was PFC W, a 21W. He was an 18-year-old mason for the Army, a quiet farm-boy type who called my husband "sir" at the beginning and end of every sentence. He was the poster boy for innocence.

And two weeks later he was on his way to Iraq.

I haven't seen him since he returned, though I did see that Stars and Stripes had interviewed him once. I would wager that he's not the same person that he was when he left. Actually, I'd wager that my impression of him, sitting shyly in that German class, was not entirely accurate either: he was most likely less innocent than he appeared. Perhaps he boarded the plane like some others I've heard of, Soldiers who were immaturely eager to kill some %$&# Iraqis. Now that they've killed, they want nothing more than to never have to do it again.

There are two meanings here for the word innocent: "naive" and "not guilty". Our Soldiers are not naive. Anyone who joined the military thinking he'd never have to participate in anything dangerous or aggressive must have been delusional. Even those who signed up pre-9/11 (as my husband did) should have known the risks involved. Our Soldiers aren't innocent dupes; when they signed the paperwork, they agreed to do a job that most people don't want to think about: they agreed to give their lives for our country.

But if this young woman meant that our Soldiers were "not guilty", then I'd agree with that. We Americans are not guilty of the heinous behavior that many on the European and American Left like to saddle us with. We did not deserve 9/11; we were not guilty. But we certainly were naive. Unlike our Soldiers, who signed a contract and contemplated the dangers beforehand, most of us regular citizens never imagined that we were a target. 9/11 took away our innocence, just as killing the first insurgent took away our Soldiers'. We'd love nothing more than to go back to 9/10, but we can't.

Some commenters here yesterday told me to get over the WTC. 9/11 wasn't that bad; just get over it. 9/11 was bad: it was the day we lost our innocence. That's why I refuse to just get over it.

Many people do watch the news and the deathtoll and wonder why each individual servicemember had to die. What did PFC Poindexter ever do to deserve this? Why should all these young innocent men have to die? Unfortunately, individual Soldiers and Marines have to die so that our country doesn't have to face another 9/11. Why should any of us have to die at the hands of "Islamobarbarians", as Nelson Ascher called them? None of us deserve that, not PFC Poindexter, not those in the WTC, not Nick Berg, not a one of us. We were all innocent, but we are no longer naive.

Lileks is right: innocent is not a good word to describe our Marines. Bad-ass is much better.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:59 AM | Comments (21) | Add Comment
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September 08, 2004

1000

I feel like I should say something about the 1000 servicemembers who have died in Iraq, but I really don't know what it is I should say. Should I point out that, statistically speaking, one is more likely to die in a car accident -- as my boss' son unfortunately did over the weekend -- than in Iraq? Should I point out that 1000 war deaths is, historically speaking, a blessing? Should I point out that I consider those combat deaths to be part of the larger deathtoll that includes 9/11 and Afghanistan, in which we passed the 1000 mark on the first day? I really don't want to point any of that stuff out; it is what it is. My regular readers don't need it pointed out anyway.

Posted by: Sarah at 09:12 AM | Comments (49) | Add Comment
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