September 13, 2007
Though we never met, and now never shall, I wanted to write to you to express my gratitude for your years of service to this nation and your willingness to shoulder a burden, with little complaint, that was neither fairly apportioned nor rightly yours. Your bravery and sacrifice have not gone without notice.
Indeed, I have been exceedingly aware of all that you and your fellow soldiers have faced and striven to achieve and given up on my behalf. However much I may oppose the mission to which you were assigned and question the motives and integrity of the architects of that mission, I must nonetheless acknowledge that, in serving America, you have served me. I vote and pay taxes and enjoy the privileges of citizenship in this country. What you do for America, you do for me. And so your blood is on my hands.
While you were in Iraq encountering risks and enduring horrors beyond my meager imagining, I was back home going about my life. Not once, while walking or driving or shopping, did I entertain the thought that my flesh might at any moment be pierced and shredded by a sniper’s bullet or a rocket-propelled grenade or a roadside bomb, my body tossed like soiled laundry. Not once. You lived with this possibility each and every day, until the dreaded moment arrived and the street upon which you came to rest blushed in shame.
I, too, am ashamed. Even though I have attended rallies, written articles, signed petitions, and supported candidates against the war, this terrible conflict is without end. Its terrible human toll is without end. The terrible grief of your family and friends is without end. Perhaps if I had done more, fought more loudly or strenuously or actively, your loved ones would be welcoming your lopsided grin home instead of your flag-draped coffin. I am so sorry. I am so very sorry.
I know that others have much more blood on their hands and greater reason to feel ashamed. I know that I am but one man and there are limits to what I can achieve. I know that this war cannot last forever and will eventually exist only as lessons for future generations to appreciate or ignore. And I know that your sacrifice, however brave and noble, will still have been tragically unnecessary. My hope is that it will not have been entirely in vain.
One day, the politicians and generals will stand solemnly beneath an azure sky and dedicate a great monument to honor the thousands of young men and women like you who perished in the Iraq War. However, such tribute is meager recompense for your sacrifice. A far greater tribute would be if these same politicians and generals would dedicate themselves with equal solemnity to peace and justice, so that no such monuments would be needed again. That is the very least they can do for you. And I will spur them on and let the memory of your sacrifice light the way. That is the very least I can do.
Thank you for everything.