Saturday, January 05, 2008

Why They March

When I woke up today, I saw that two soldiers died in Sadiyah two days ago:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Jan. 3 in As Sadiyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using small arms fire during combat operations. Both Soldiers were assigned to the Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

Killed were:

Maj. Andrew J. Olmsted, 37, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Cpt. Thomas J. Casey, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M.

Andrew Olmsted? Yes, that Olmsted. It is always just a bit painful to read the death notices from the war every day or so. Lately, it has not been quite as much of a burden because the notices are less often and the weight of accumulating victory lessens my worry that their sacrifices might be in vain. But reading a name I know, a blogger and writer, hurt a bit more. Many military bloggers will be saddened that Olmsted has been killed.

Captain Casey, who died in the same combat, probably won't get the same blogosphere treatment. His is just a name unknown to all but his friends and family. The circle of grief will be smaller for Thomas Casey but far more intense than for Major Olmsted because Casey's mourners will be restricted to friends and family and not include email contacts and readers.

Both died for their country whether they think of it that way or not. Each swore to defend our nation and constitution. And each pledged to give away some of their freedoms to defend ours. They had no choice about what war they would be sent to. It could have been the "good" war in Afghanistan or the "bad" war in Iraq (by the anti-war side's logic). Or it could have been South Korea. Or someplace comfortable. Dying in Sadiyah wasn't their choice. Serving in Iraq wasn't their choice. But serving their country as soldiers was their choice. I took the same oath at one time. It is a powerful feeling to pledge so much. And these two soldiers paid the price for their honor and commitment.

I contrast their choices with the self-absorbed anti-war side. Those people protest Iraq and feel good about themselves. But how selfless are they, really? They chose their war to protest. There are lots of wars going on now. What if, in order to protest, they had to sign of with the Protest Corps and were assigned which war to protest?

PC: "You and you: Iraq."

Protesters: "Yes!! I was hoping for this assignment."

PC: You: Afghanistan."

Protester: "But that's the good war!"

PC: "You and you: Somalia."

Protesters: "Somalia? Aww come on! Nobody even knows about Somalia!"

PC: "Suck it up. It won't impress the hirsute chicks but there's a war on dudes. Moving on. You two: Philippines."

Protesters: "Is there even a war going on there?"

Yet protesters get to pretend they are the ones who are morally superior to our "mercenary" soldiers. When the shooting gets close, the human shields march home. If the weather is poor, protesters won't march in the same numbers. Or if there is a Grateful Dead concert that night, of course. They march if it feels good or if they just feel like it.

When the shooting starts, that's when a soldiers's job begins. Whatever the weather. Regardless of where they'd rather be. Whether they want to be there or not. Whether they agree with the war, the war's objectives, or the conduct of the war. They march to the sounds of the gunfire to protect the rest of us. Because they have honor and risk their lives to uphold their honor.

So thank you Major Olmsted and Captain Casey. I'm sorry you were killed. I am grateful that men and women like you march toward the sound of the guns.

Rest in peace.