This I Believe

Lendra - Navarre, Florida
Entered on April 16, 2006

I believe we must honor those who sacrifice all in serving their Nation. Having served my adopted country for 20 years, I am saddened with the current state of affairs regarding certain aspects of the conflict in Iraq. We praise the sacrifices of Pat Tillman, who gave up a lucrative football career to serve his country but we too often ignore the 18-year old who never had a chance to even try out for a college team and joined the Armed Forces to have a shot at going to college. So kudos to those having the intestinal fortitude to go against the climate of secrecy and honoring my comrades in a most dignified way.

Second, I believe we must allow the American public to see more than the faces of the over 2,616 women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice or who too often are simply referred to as “four soldiers who died in Iraq today from an IED.” We must have the opportunity to view their final journey home and the dignity and care afforded to them by the military. We cannot assign a face to flag-draped coffins leaving the war zone or arriving at Dover AFB. Once the remains are turned over to the families it becomes a very private matter; it is up to the families as to how much publicity they wish to have.

I believe the press must be free to cover this solemn journey but I’m also concerned it might become sensationalized. Perhaps I haven’t–or I’m not–giving my fellow Americans enough credit for knowing where the line should be drawn. Rest assured, if the families of the fallen are present at Dover then we should step back and allow them to grieve in private. But in their absence, we must honor their loved one’s return to America in a manner that doesn’t glorify war, minimize their incredible sacrifice, or make a political statement about the ongoing conflict.

I believe upon the hallowed ground of Dover we are united in our common heritage as Americans. A son, daughter, husband, wife, sister or brother–one of America’s fallen–has returned and deserves a last full measure of respect. We gather not as Republicans or Democrats, not as hawks or doves, but as grateful citizens to bow our heads and pray the bereaved find solace in the midst of their pain and sorrow for “…having laid so great a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Finally, I believe we cannot do justice in honoring these brave women and men if we continue the mistreatment of the captured or their continued incarceration without due process. As Americans, we cannot both view ourselves as helping grow democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and accept such behavior. Our cause must remain true to the Constitution I’ve sworn to protect and defend. When we violate this trust, we dishonor those who we seek to honor for their ultimate sacrifice in defense of those freedoms.