Tuesday, June 20, 2006

If I Die In A Combat Zone

As I looked at the news this morning and saw coverage of the tortured and mutilated bodies of those American soldiers in Iraq, I couldn't help but feel sadness and compassion for them and their families. Yesterday I read on CNN about how one of the soldiers, Kristian Menchaca, was on leave here in the U.S. a month ago. His brother said of him, "He just said how pretty bad it was over there. He wasn't the same inside anymore. I guess that's what war does to you."

Last night I was reading If I Die In a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, the personal memoirs of Tim O'Brien, who served in Vietnam. Not as a direct correlation to the Vietnam and Iraq wars, but as a condemnation of the evil state of affairs that is almost inevitable with war, I quote this passage from the book:

"If land is not won, and if hearts are at best left indifferent; if the only obvious criterion of military success is body count and if the enemy absorbs losses as he has, still able to lure us amid his crop of mines; if soldiers are being withdrawn, with more to go later and later and later; if legs make me more of a man, and they surely do, my soul and character and capacity to love notwithstanding; if any of this is truth, a soldier can only do his walking, laughing along the way and taking a funny, crooked step.

After the war, he can begin to be bitter. Those who point at and degrade his bitterness, those who declare that it's all a part of war and that this is a job which must be done--to those patriots I will recommend a postwar vacation to this land, where they can swim in the sea, lounge under a fine sun, stroll in the quaint countryside, wife and son in hand. Certainly, there will be a mine or two still in the earth. Alpha Company did not detonate all of them."

May both God and we bless and look after our soldiers (during and after this occupation), and the soldiers of the Iraqi army who will hopefully be able to step up in a very short season to lead and protect their own people from the tyranny and atrocities of years past.

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