Monday, December 21, 2009

Numbers

Reprinted with permission from my husband Ben...

Hello Everyone,

I got off work Monday morning here to learn the news of the death of the famous actress, Brittany Murphy, and it sparked a thought that has been floating through my head for awhile. I realized that I wouldn't be able to sleep until I wrote it down. I posted it to my blog, my first post in months, at http://mysandyjungle.blogspot.com if you want to check it out there, but I also wanted to share it by email. Please let me know what you think and please feel free to pass it around unnamed. I'm not doing this to get my name out there, but merely my thoughts.

Thanks you guys, and gals. I miss you all and cant wait to come home.

Ben


Numbers

When did it all start? Was it Vietnam with the body count? Or was it long before that, in the beginning of time and the beginning of war itself.


As far as I can remember, war has been depersonalized. Is it for the good of the country? For the good of the cause? In World War II, the media was censored from releasing pictures of dead American soldiers so that public support of the war back in the states would not crumble. Our government was afraid that if America saw the bodies of our soldiers rolling lifeless on the beaches of Normandy, pushed around by the surf, their Marines laying dead on the sands of Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal, that she, America, would scream for the war to end.

Before Pearl Harbor, our country was in a state of isolationism. America was adamant about not going to war with any country. Not with the memories of The Great War fresh in her mind. But a surprise attack by naval forces of the Empire of Japan quickly changed the public opinion.

And with the censorship of those photos, the country as a whole was not seeing the whole picture. They didn't really have the opportunity to know what was happening thousands of miles away. Only the small towns across the nation really felt it differently, because when one of their boys was killed in action, word got around quick and that one loss was felt among many families and friends. But the next town over, much less the next state over, was not aware of that one soldier's fate. Not aware that a boy that grew up not fifty miles away had sacrificed his life "upon the altar of freedom."

Was it decided that it wasn't proper for America to know how many soldiers were losing their lives in the European and Pacific theaters? Was it the right thing to do? It's a tough point to argue, but I believe it was necessary. The Allies were fighting a just war, against formidable enemies that were wreaking havoc across many nations. These enemies, the Germans, the Japanese....were unwelcome in the land they were occupying, and they needed to leave. The British were trying, but they knew they couldn't do it without the help of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Although it wasn't our country being overrun by enemy tanks or our cities being bombed everyday, we couldn't sit at home and do nothing while the rest of the world was fighting for its very survival. And the events of December 7, 1941 forever changed our thoughts, thrusting us into a costly war, a war that we needed to be involved in, no matter the cost. And so the eyes of American citizens were shielded from the true horrors of war to help ensure their full support and in turn helping to bring victory to the Allies and restoring world order. 

But I sometimes wonder. Would things have turned out differently if the pictures of those dead soldiers and Marines had made it into the hands of America? I think it's quite possible. It's a pretty good bet that not as many people would have bought war bonds to help keep the war going. At the same time, it is a thought that I try not to ponder, because I am thankful for the outcome of that war. It allowed my grandfather to come home and meet my grandmother so they could have four kids, including my mother, who gave birth to my brother and I and allowed us the opportunity to grow up in a free country. This is an opportunity that a lot of people around the world do not get to experience, and I am thankful for this everyday.

I am thankful to God and His son Jesus Christ for creating us and giving us the free will to choose whatever we please. So in a sense, the media censorship, in my mind, was the right thing to do.

Sometimes there are things that happen that we are better off not knowing. It is a sad truth. Vietnam changed that.....and in the harshest of ways. In the jungles of southeast Asia, there was no censorship of the media. Video cameras were rolling, in color, as American blood was spilt in a country where President Lyndon Baines Johnson stated, "We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

America soon found itself in a long, drawn out war with no front lines, a rising body count on both sides, and no end in sight. The American people were in tune to what this "conflict" or "police action" was costing, and they were not happy with the price. Public support quickly crumbled and questions were flying left and right. Why are we over there? What are our soldiers fighting for? When is this going to end? When am I going to see my husband, my son, my brother, my sister, my daughter again, if ever? America wanted out, badly.

And so on January 27, 1973, eleven years after we arrived and after fifty-eight thousand one hundred and fifty nine American soldiers laid down their lives, we left that jungle. The soldiers that were lucky enough to return home with their lives were given a not so warm welcome. No parades, no celebrations, except maybe amongst themselves and their families. Instead, they were sneered at and labeled "baby killers." It would be years before these brave men and women were recognized and appreciated for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their comrades who breathed their last breath in a foreign land, fighting an enemy they could not see, for a cause that many didn't understand or believe in. "All gave some, some gave all."

To this day, the citizens of this great nation have not forgotten the mistakes of that war. They have moved on, trying to put it behind them, but never to forget. America had smelled the blood from the homefront and was now more cautious than ever about sending their troops to foreign battlefields. 

Since the Vietnam War, and I think its safe to say that it was a "war," American troops have been sent abroad as a global police force to "keep evil in check" and do what we believe is right. But now we find ourselves, once again, in a long, drawn out war, on two fronts.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, American troops and her allies set foot in Afghanistan and declared war against Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Barely two years later, we returned to the Middle East, set to finish a job that many believe should have been done twelve years earlier when Bush, Sr. was in charge. American troops stormed through the deserts of Iraq, battling its way to Baghdad, hellbent on removing Saddam Hussein from power. This war supposedly ended quicker than it began, and before long, Saddam was in custody and ready to stand trial for his atrocities. There was no doubt in the American mind that this man had to take responsibility for his actions and suffer the consequences.

In the beginning though, the numbers of American dead were low, and this was accepted as a price that had to be paid to do what was right. But even though the big battles were over, the real battle had yet to begin. Over the next few years, more and more American soldiers were losing their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, but as this trend continued, the media started to put a number on the amount of American lives lost. Maybe not to depersonalize these men and women, but to show in their way to the nation what these two conflicts were costing our country. It raised the question of why troops were still over there and if this really was worth it. 

We are now in our eighth year in Afghanistan and sixth year in Iraq. I myself am on my first deployment, sitting somewhere in Afghanistan, here to do my job, to do it well, let my "hopefully" months to pass by quickly, and God willing, return home safely to my beautiful bride. But then there is today's event in the news that sparked this whole urge to write my thoughts.

I had just gotten off a twelve and a half hour shift and was getting ready to get some much needed sleep. We were climbing into bed when the news started filtering around that Brittany Murphy, the famous actress, had died of cardiac arrest. This came as a shock, and a surprise, as she is still young and I wouldn't have imagined this happening to her. It is tragic that she died so young and I am no doubt saddened by this. She was a good actress and as far as I could tell, a good person. There was no doubt that the media would spend a few days, maybe even weeks, talking about the circumstances of her death, and the highlights of her life. It wasn't long ago that Michael Jackson died suddenly, and even though it was months ago, the media was still talking about it, keeping the attention of the American people on one person, as though a country had lost its King. 

But is all this really necessary? Is the outcome of the investigation of Michael Jackson's death really going to affect how we live our lives? Will wars be won or lost? Will the earth be thrown off its axis? I really doubt it. Maybe I am being too insensitive. If you are reading this and think so, then fine. I am going to disagree with you if you do.

For some time it has bothered me how much attention the media gives to our celebrities. Not just their deaths, but of their everyday lives and thoughts and opinions. These celebrities have no special super powers. They are not geniuses, nor scientists, nor the great minds of America that make the big decisions in government. They are entertainers, and they get paid a lot of money to do what they do, which is fine. But what is it about them that makes them the center of the universe? I'm starting to get a little off point here, so let me return to the issue that I have been wanting to bring up this whole time. 

When is the media going to stop reporting the loss of American lives as numbers? When are they going to act like they care and starting reporting their names? Where are they from? What small town was affected by their loss? What big city or state can stand up and learn about one of their own that has fallen for their freedom?

I realize that this is not why our fighting American men and women volunteer to serve their country. They do not do it for fame, for fortune, or to be in the spotlight. Some do it because they feel it is their duty. Some do it for the experience, the college money, to improve themselves, or maybe because they have nowhere else to go and they have a family to support, so they give up their civilian life and enlist. They are a people that America loves and appreciates everyday.

So I ask this of the media. Would you be so kind as to set aside thirty seconds of your daily news report, or maybe even once a week, to remember the names of the fallen? To let America know the name of that latest soldier that lost their life in the battle against terrorism/ Bring their sacrifice home. We know that America already cares about them. But I myself am tired of hearing them as a number.

I want to know who number nine hundred and fifty seven was. What was their name? Where were they from? You want to feel the pulse of the American people? Tell us. Make us care that much more. Make it personal. Make us aware of the true American heroes that "gave it all."

Thank you

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