Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Sign the Letters

When the story came out that Secretary Rumsfeld was using a mechanical signer for letters to the families of dead soldiers, my first reaction was that this was just an excuse to attack the war effort through Rumsfeld. Another strike in the proxy war.

I wondered if this was a big deal at all and had no idea if the families would even care. But I also could not quite isolate myself from the politics of the attacks to honestly answer whether I'd have been upset if this had happened under the Clinton administration.

While I do not think this is a resigning offense, I think Rumsfeld's decision not to sign the letters was a mistake. Not because I think it shows he doesn't care but because it fails to show he does care. It doesn't matter if the families even care about the signature or even the letter. Signing them personally is just the right thing to do.

I read every casualty notice that the Department of Defense puts out. I make sure I take the time to read their name, hometown, age, and service. I note where they were killed and what unit they were in. This doesn't help the families of the dead. It doesn't make me a better or kinder person than others. But it is something I do so that I never set aside the price that others are paying to preserve our--my--safety. Maybe I'm fooling myself that this means something, but I do it as an obligation to our dead. Never forgetting their sacrifice has to start somewhere and I hope the small symbolism of reading every casualty announcement means that collectively Americans will remember the bravery of those who fight for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and who will not come home to enjoy the safety they have purchased for me.

I'm glad Secretary Rumsfeld will start signing the letters. It is the right thing to do.