Letter to a Fallen Soldier

September 13, 2007

Dear Sir:

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.

5 thoughts on “Letter to a Fallen Soldier

  1. Dear David.

    Your comments were very well written, indeed.

    I am afraid that your ideas are based more upon emotion than reality, and suggest that you carefull review history before arriving at whimsical theory hopes.

    Great desires and hopes to not result in the change or modification of reality.

    Please objectively–if possible–where we are and how we got there in relation to the actual facts regarding the continuos fights to protect and preserve our country, and its freedoms (which include public support and participation).

    Please pay more attention to what is going on–not what you believe should be happening.

    Respectfully,

    Dwight Lorenz
    (In three wars, and wouldn’t have it any differently!!)

  2. Perspective is everything in life and cannot be ignored. It is certainly for Mr. Lorenz to hold that serving with honor in three wars was necessary, although I suggest that most soldiers (and here I include all of those who serve)would have much preferred to serve to protect the Nation without the need for war. The great iconoclast lawyer and defender of freedom, Clarence Darrow, warned us that, “History repeats itself; that’s one of the things that’s wrong with history,” and President Washington urged the Nation to beware of foreign entanglements. I do not know to which wars Mr. Lorenz refers, but I am sure upon reflection he would agree that our real interests in the Viet Nam conflict were not served by our involvement. History has not been kind to those who led us into that war, another civil war with no real American interests at stake. I do not fault those of my generation who served with honor and were so badly treated during and after, but I do fault the miserable leadership of this Nation that contrive that war and refused to win what they began. The lives of our 55,000 dead and perhaps 350,000 wounded were indeed wasted by politicians.

    The Korean War, called a “Police Action” and not a war, did indeed save South Korea and was internationalized in that many nations sent at least token forces to fight beside us. Yet, a case can be made that this real and horrid aggression by the communists from the North had no real interest for us as a nation. Of course South Korea has emerged as a democracy and powerful economic force while North Korea is a bleak and failed state run by a part ruthless, part loonie leader and his cohorts. My point is, there really was no interest on our part to get involved in that “Police Action” beyond perhaps some future perceived threat to Japan, and even there, we had no direct interest. Another 50,000 Americans died in the Korean War, and was it another 250,000 wounded? And we as a nation have had a military presence in South Korea for 60 years!

    The war in Iraq is another example of a contrived confrontation in which there was and is no real national interest. All the first causes of this last war: weapons of mass destruction, involvement in the destruction of the Twin Towers, hotbed of terrorist training and activity targeting our nation, were simply erroneous. Of course Iraq was led by a murderous thug and his loonie family. The issue is, it it in our national interest to deal with all the loonies and thugs of this world and sacrifice our young people to do so. Young men and women soldiers die or are maimed in wars, not old politicians sending them there.

    Unable to admit these errors of leadership, Mr. Bush and his administration changed course and substituted a need to bring democracy to the Middle East and nation building. Unfortunately, since its creation by European nations in the aftermath of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the end of World War I, Iraq, a state that was never a state, was created by imperialist mapmakers, and remains a failed state that likely can never be a state in any meaningful way.

    Why is it in our interest to stay in this failed state in the middle of a civil war between local loonies debating which sect of their religion is “true” and murdering all who do not hold their views. There simply is no reason to interject our soldiers into this conflict that cannot be resolved by military means. Our nation felt no need to intervene in the Cambodian slaughter, the murder of Hungarians by the Soviets in the 1956 revolution, and we chose not to save the Ugandans from the lunatic Idi Amin, or the Tutsi from slaughter in central Africa. Yet, Mr. Bush choses to prolong this struggle in Iraq.

    Mr. Lorenz, and all who served so well, and continue to serve, through so many conflicts are to be honored for their dedication. However, the leadership that sent them and continues to send our young people to die, should be taken to task if they stray from our real interests.

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