News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, MAY 30, 2005


War dead sacrificed everything for nation

The Associated Press sends out a daily list of U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Sometimes AP updates it more than once a day as new bad news comes in.

It starts with the total number killed since the war began in March 2003 — now more than 1,650 — and concludes with the names, ages, hometowns and other details on the soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and other military dead whose names have just been released.

On the first glance at this list, your eyes go to the names, hometowns and states at the end. You want to see whether anybody you know, or anybody nearby, is listed there. Thank goodness, most of the time the answer is no.

But then you look at the names of strangers: a Marine major from California, 39 years old, killed in a grenade attack; an Army sergeant from Wisconsin, 22, killed in an explosion; an Army warrant officer from Wisconsin, 28, who died in a helicopter crash. The names are ethnically diverse enough to remind you that people of all races and cultures are fighting and dying for this country.

The temptation is to exclaim, "What a waste!" Diplomacy and politics are infinitely better ways to solve conflicts, to allocate power. When war breaks out, it's a sign that leaders on at least one side are incompetent or evil or both.

In America, we may question our leaders' competence and judgment — that's one of the freedoms our war dead have bought for us — but few would seriously argue that our nation goes to war for evil reasons.

We call on our military people, as we must, to fight and die, enabling us as Americans to pursue the policies that we believe are right. But millions of them have given up everything so that we can do this.

On this Memorial Day, we are grateful for those who put country above life.

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