Monday, August 2, 2010

Remember the Fallen

For a year now I have been having a monthly section called Remember the Fallen on my blog. I began this for two reasons: 1) to keep me reminded of those that have given their lives for the rest of us. 2) to remind others not to forget those who are serving in the longest war we have ever fought. Month after month I have sat and read the names of those killed during the month. CNN have given us most of their faces. Most of them have been young some as young as 19 years old. Most of those killed have been from 19-30 years old. Most in their mid-twenties. Just as they were beginning adult life theirs was snuffed out. Along with the names and ages I told where they were from and how they met their deaths.

A week ago when I sat down to list these that have fallen—I discovered they were too many. There was no way I could list all these names of our service people who have been killed in the last few weeks. I would remind you that you can go to the web site where I first received my information. But to my horror I discovered that we have had 66 deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq in the month of July. This is the highest number of casualties we have had since the war began.

My eye also caught this headline from The Washington Post. “Army suicides most in more than a year.” The U.S. Army reported 32 suicides in June, the highest number for a single month since January 2009, when the suicide rate in the Army began to spike. Col. Chris Philbrick, the director of the Army’s suicide prevention task force has said that the boost in the number of suicides in June was likely driven by the “continued stresses on the force.” The Army has poured a great deal of money and other resources into getting as handle on the suicide rate and until last month has begun to see some signs of success.

How much longer we can sustain this madness? I do not know. This war has just about bankrupted this country spiritually as well as economically. We have poured millions and millions of dollars into the hands of locals with little accountability. I know there are no easy answers yet somehow we must begin to bring our troops home.

Read these figures and weep:
More than 6,000 have died in this war.
Deaths in Afghanistan – 1,941
Wounded in Afghanistan – 7,011
Deaths in Iraq – 4,732
Wounded in Iraq – 31,888
(figures through July 21, 2010)

Brian Turner, an Iraq veteran and poet helps us understand the war in his book of poetry, Here, Bullet. He served as sergeant in the Iraq War in 2003-2004. Most of the poems in this book were written while he was stationed there. Here is one of his poems that makes us stop and think.

“If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable fight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because, here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.”

If you missed Tom Friedman’s fine Sunday editorial in the New York Times, you might want to read it—he makes us think of the consequences of this war which seems to have no end.

Remember the fallen…we cannot forget.

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