Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Image in My Head

So we have over 4,000 KIA at this point. It’s a big number, a pretty abstract number.

When I think of this number, when I try to put it in perspective, I think of a parade field I stood on some eighteen or so years ago. This was in Germany, at least a year before the entire 3rd Armored Division got on planes bound for Saudi Arabia. This was a muggy, hot, day in the height of summer, and through the smell of fresh cut grass our sergeants were harping on us about not locking our knees, keeping our lines dressed, and all the other things that go into a military parade and have nothing to do with anti-nerve agent pills, fire missions, or digging foxholes in sand, all that was a ways off yet. This day in Germany was all about the change of command ceremony for Army V Corps, so there were a lot of soldiers on the field. A brigade numbers about 4,000 troops, and though my entire brigade—the 41st Field Artillery—wasn’t in the ceremony, there were well over 4,000 soldiers on that field. So I know what 4,000 troops standing there on a parade field, in the sun, in Germany looks like.

And that’s the image in my head the last few days, and it’s the image in my head when I read this:

The president carries the biggest burden, obviously," Cheney said. "He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us.

Yes, we are fortunate. More fortunate than he can ever know or, and let’s be honest, more than he even really cares. Leaving behind that parade field, let’s think for a few minutes about all the other people, the families and friends of 4,000 dead soldiers and marines. If you’re part of a military family, then you’ve woken up in the middle of the night wondering how your husband, wife, son, or daughter is doing right then at that very moment, you’ve had to find ways to pay bills and make ends meet while your spouse is on his or her second, third, or maybe fourth, deployment, and maybe you’ve even had to try find answers to those seemingly simple but weighty questions that only children can ask. But that’s just what it means to be a part of a military family. There are 4,000 other families in America who have paid the ultimate price. Think about them this week and if you care to, check out these links:

National Military Family Association