Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cardboard Cutouts... In Shades of Red, White, and Blue

It brought tears to my eyes the night I sat in silence reading the following...

“The night before the helicopter flight, Victor Langarica called home for the last time, certain that he would die the next day. ‘You better make it’ his mother told him. ‘Your kids are waiting here for you.’ She put his 6-year-old daughter, Devina, on the phone to talk with him. When he got back on the line with his mother, he was crying. ‘ I will remember you every second,’ he said.” Devina’s father died in Iraq the next day. Excerpt from “The True Cost of War” by Weston Kosova. Newsweek, Feb 5, 2007

“Never forget that your daddy loves you more than anything and that I will be home soon.” Major Michael Mundell wrote that letter to his young daughter. He died in Iraq on January 5, 2007. Quote is an excerpt from “Our Soldiers Stories: The War in the Words of the Dead” by Jon Meacham. Newsweek, April 7, 2007

Reading “Our Soldiers Stories: The War in the Words of the Dead” in the April 2nd issue of Newsweek, I read the words of Terri Clifton, who lost her son Marine Lance Cpl. Chad Clifton. “It’s become very important to me that these soldiers and Marines are viewed as individuals with lives, dreams, experiences and families. They aren’t cardboard cutouts in shades of red, white, and blue.”

Lance Cpl. Clifton was 19 when he lost his life to a mortar.

If I am to be honest with you then it is important to emphasize I am of the political left.

I do not want this to be political, insofar as that can be avoided. In many ways, it can’t. But I hope you can read this, you too can maybe think of the human cost of war. One thing I have noticed in Chile is the media, is, as some might say, more graphic, others might call it something else: more honest. While watching the international portion of the news, I have seen bloodied corpses dragged out of burning cars, babies dead in rubble, and soldiers, face down, never to rise again. This is the reality I see the war in Iraq from, through the eyes of Chileans who day by day endure the photos and video of lives lost in the most horrendous of ways, ways we, those who should must see it the most, don´t tolerate.

I looked through a list of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and began from the top of the list and worked my way through their ages:

21, 21, 21, 28, 20, 32, 26, 24, 21, 21, 25, 19.

I heard a story the other day about a depressed veteran who went seeking treatment from the Veterans Administration. “I’m depressed, I feel so suicidal” he noted. The clerk, without looking up, informed him they were unable to help. “Come back in a couple months.” This soldier, became another one of American’s fallen when he hung himself four days later. Senseless deaths, and it leaves me feeling anxious and empty inside as I write about them.

As a colective nation, we have never been asked to do anything since this war started, except to shop and shop a lot. And we have, as a nation, collectively done less than that, failing in essence, to see the humanity of the soldier, the humanity of the stranger outside our realm of reality, and the loved ones in our nation and Iraq that have so tragically been left behind.

Men, women, children... Iraqi and American, or that is to say, somebody´s son or daughter, wife or husband, mom or dad... real people, just like me, and just like you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Patrick – just read your blog – which I look forward too at the beginning of each week, you and Ryan are a lot better than my son – he updates his every quarter – if at that. The ages of the soldiers that die for our freedom is amazing – now they are even younger – 19! From the time Roy was accepted into the HCA – I have had an American Flag outside my door – day or night, rain or sun – to remind me, my family and my community of the sacrifice these young men and women have given. When family and friends ask me how I do it not to go crazy without seeing my son - especially when it was about a year and half before we say him again – I just remind them about the sons and daughters of my neighbors that will not be coming back home and I thank God that Roy is answering his call to service and not in the armed forces. I know it must be hard to hear about family and friends going on with life in the states and not being able to be part of it – especially when you were a major part of it just months ago – but the service y’all are doing in Chile is amazing. I hope and pray that the people y’all are helping appreciate the gifts they are receiving by having such amazing young sons and daughters in there community willing to give a helping hand in whatever is needed of them.

Take care – Mr. Pequeño