November 12, 2003

A Belated Veterans Day I

A Belated Veterans Day

I often criticize the NYT in this space. But they struck just the right tone and provided an immensely moving Veterans Day remembrance by printing excerpted text of letters home from now deceased servicemen and women.

The letters weren't somehow strategically selected to score cheap political points. They fairly represent that mixture of pride, fear, boredom, exhilaration, and homesickness of the soldiers serving in Iraq.

As someone who supported this war--these letters hit me hard. I read them more than once--remembering that the "each death is a tragedy" mantra (typically employed when taking stock of Iraq body counts as compared to previous conflicts to make the point that fatalities aren't high on a historical basis) must never be standard boiler plate that one merely inserts into text clinically.

It really means something--as these letters remind us so very vividly.

Take the unabashed pride and total lack of cynicism in the letter of this Captain, about my age, to his parents. He closes:

"I love you both with all of my heart! I'm working very hard here adding honor to our country and to our family name!"

What a refreshing tonic to the cheap, irony-infused popular culture we mostly inhabit. To the feverish whines of those obsessed with diet fads, materialistic prestige, botox injections, and so on.

Or this female soldier, now dead too, describing the effects of hitting an improvised explosive device ("IED"):

"I'm doing fine, Mom. Yes, I did get into a sort of accident, if that's what you call it. We were hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) or RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), which set our truck on fire because it struck the battery and fuel line. My neck and shoulder were pretty banged up for about two weeks. My shoulder popped (dislocated) and I jammed my neck as well. I lost my hearing in my left ear for a few weeks. My hearing in general isn't good at all anymore. I've been through my share of explosives. I'm sending pictures home to be developed of my truck (or what's left of it). I took a few of me with the truck, so you could all see that I'm O.K."

She was 19.

There really aren't words for all this beyond reading the letters themselves.

I guess though, in the final analysis, Gregg Easterbrook gets it about right:

"And we must marvel at the nobility of people like Rachel Bosveld, Joshua Byers, Robert Frantz, Jesse Givens, and Kevin Moorhead, whose boots we are not fit to wash."

Posted by Gregory at November 12, 2003 01:10 PM
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