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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Verteran's Day 2008

There are two things I have not heard talked about for a long, long time. The first is the horrors of September 11, 2001. Oh, I know we saw the candidates place flowers at ground zero two months ago, but when is the last time you actually remembered that day and the fear we all had that it may happen again? Montage of 9-11. Second hit.

The second thing we've seen less of--and praise God for that-- is endless footage of violent battles in Iraq. Make no mistake. The war there is not over, but it is being won, and last month saw less casualties than any month since fighting began. On this day of honoring our men and women in the armed forces, I thought I'd pull up one of the first posts I ever wrote back in 2004, the week after Veteran's Day. The story will remind you of the progress we've made in Iraq and the brave soldiers who have made it happen.

The Marine Did His Job (originally posted 11-2004)

Last week in honor of Veteran’s Day, ABC aired Saving Private Ryan, the first Hollywood movie ever to cause me to grieve. It’s a film that earned is strong "viewer discretion" warning, but it's also one that should be seen by every American old enough to understand the words “freedom” and "cost." War, accurately portrayed, is hard on the eyes and harder on the stomach, but to the post WWII generations, Saving Private Ryan gives new meaning to five words:
Duty, Honor, Country... Thank you.

Monday night and again tonight, I saw a similar film. It was shorter—not shot by Spielberg but by an NBC imbedded cameraman in Iraq. I hope you have not seen this footage, and I hope it soon fades into the fog of "news that isn't news." But if this story has legs, I fear that a young marine may be in trouble for actions that should never have been seen in our living rooms. Allow me to describe what I saw, taking a few liberties afforded a typical screenplay:

Roll camera. A handful of marines are seen crossing an iron bridge in Fallujah, Iraq. As they approach the road ahead, they look up at the empty green girders of the bridge. The frame freezes and dissolves into a Flashback of the same image—this time with two charred bodies of American contractors hanging overhead with a throng of laughing thugs dancing below, firing rifle shots in the air. The gun bursts snap us back to “real time” and our marines take cover at the foot of the empty bridge. They trace the fire to a nest of remnant insurgents about 100 yards away, hit it with a small missile, and all is quiet but the sounds of war in the distance.

As they move along the rubble, they meet up with part of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment with an imbedded NBC cameraman. They exchange wary glances, and the newcomers are warned that the mosque they're approaching had been raining “AK-47 fire from Ala” down on them for two days, but it was finally put out of business yesterday just before the main wave of fighting moved north. As they cautiously advance, they give a wide birth to the strewn bodies of masked enemy soldiers along the road. The camera guy gets some shots of the carnage. “Don’t touch the bodies,” one grunt warns. “Some of them are booby trapped. One went off on our buddy yesterday. Killed him.” Another marine, whose face is still bloody from what looks like a bullet graze, adds, “And shoot anything that moves. Yesterday I nearly got my head blown off from one of 'em who didn’t want to die alone.”

Suddenly, the boots stop at the base of a minaret, which the day before was illegally used as a machine-gun nest. They quietly enter the shattered sanctity of the mosque, camera rolling.
The distant popping of gunfire fades. “It’s too quiet,” a voice whispers. Each trigger feels a tremulous finger, poised. Sunshine streaks in through high windows. The Marine’s eyes adjust to the light and each pulse quickens as the shapes of bodies on the floor emerge from the shadows. The marine with the wounded face cautiously steps toward one of them. The body is on its side; his hand is out of sight. Is he alive? Is he hiding something? “Why risk it again,” he thinks, remembering yesterday’s stinging blast to his face. And with little thought he fires a shot into the heap on the floor.
End of screenplay.

On the big screen, that scene in the mosque would run about 30 seconds, but unfortunately the incident was real, and the wounded marine who fired the gun may face criminal charges for shooting an unarmed “prisoner of war.” That’s the story. I don’t know every rule of the Geneva Accord; I don't know this marine (and hope that his name is never released). I don’t know every detail of this incident (though all but the dialogue and part about the infamous bridge is in the reports). But I do know this: that battle-weary marine was doing his job. Most soldiers in this unconventional war of human bombs and desperate terrorists would have done the same.

War should never be reduced to “reality TV.” There are no commercial breaks; no game-over buzzer at the end of each battle; no getting voted off the island. War is a mangle of man and machines where things blow up and people die. The horrific images should not be casually viewed and second-guessed from a living-room couch. I suggest a new rule for our military and our imbedded media:

Whenever an imbed's footage can help prove the facts of this war on terror, use the footage, but never should an imbedded camera be used to subject a fighting marine to criminal charges for pro-active self-defense in a time of war. Soldiers live between frenzied snaps of time, and he who hesitates is lost.

Update: in May of 2005, well after this post was first written, the marine (who remained un-named) was cleared of misconduct. His actions were deemed proper in the realities of war.
Three years later the city was rebounding as one of the success stories of the surge that helped win the hearts of those liberated from Saddam Hussein.
Now let us pray for continued progress toward victory and the safe return home of those who represent all we honor today. May their sacrifice never be tarnished by lesser men and women.
(Here are more positive stories fro Iraq. Scroll down to video from 10 months ago).


Blogger Julie said...

Unbelievable - thanks for helping us remember those who risk their lives for our freedom.

11/11/08 1:30 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

As good a salute to Veteran's Day as one could ask for.
Thank you.

11/11/08 2:09 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Thank you for this post.
I was indeed reminded of the horrors of 9-11 when I watched a documentary on that day this year...personal footage taken from New Yorkers of the attack and the aftermath...it was a haunting reminder and how quickly we want to just forget it because it seems easier for us!

I too have a little Veteran's day post.

Thank you for yours and for the stories here.

11/11/08 3:02 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Julie in CO,
So good to hear from you. I stopped by your site the other day but didn't leave a second comment. I hope all is well with your family as winter in the mountains approaches.

It's so easy to forget what we've been through and who has been fighting for us.

I missed that, but I do recall a long film from a few years ago that was made by a film crew that was making a documentary about fireman that day. That was an incredible perspective. What a horrible day. I will be writing a tribute to President Bush before Inauguration Day, and in it I hope to include that picture of him with the bull horn and that gray-haired fireman. How soon we forget.

History will remember him more kindly than those he helped protect for seven years.

11/11/08 5:08 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

God bless each and every veteran and you as well, for this reminder. I hope I never take my freedom for granted. Thanks for this great tribute to Veteran's Day!

12/11/08 12:02 PM  

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