At times like this, people say, “He died a hero.” I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases “he died a hero” or “he died a patriot” or “he died for his country” rub raw.
“People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died,” our daughter, Amanda, has said. “He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn’t make his death okay. I’m glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn’t make it okay either.”
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Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don’t have to experience: The day Augie’s unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.
I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to “clear, hold and build” Iraqi towns, there aren’t enough troops to do that.
In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was “less and less worth it,” because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can’t hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.
The clock is now ticking on who will be the first of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders to attack Paul Schroeder while at the same time making much ado about how much they “honor” the death of his son.
As if they somehow cared more for him than his own father.
That’s how the little chickenshits work…
… one more thing I want to add to this: when you lose a family member suddenly and senselessly, it tears a hole in your life. Grief becomes a constant hovering presence, through which all sunlight and joy will be filtered for a very long time to come. It’s overwhelming to each person who lives through it — now imagine that multiplied by well over 2,000 American (and coalition) families, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 Iraqi families … and it’s a wonder that the weight of so much needless sorrow does not descend upon us and smother us in our sleep, every one.