Monday, August 3, 2009

The Long Way Home

On January 17, 1991, which was the first night of the first war in Iraq - Operation Desert Storm - the United States suffered its first casualty of the war. Lt. Commander Michael Speicher was shot down while piloting his FA-18 Hornet on a mission over Iraq. His body was not recovered.

In the almost two decades that have passed since the night he was shot down, Speicher's status has been in something of a state of flux. He was initially declared dead, which designation the Navy changed in 2001 to "missing in action" and then again, in late 2002, to "missing/captured". In the almost two decades that have passed since the night he was shot down, Speicher's rank in the Navy rose from Lt. Commander to Captain. And two of his children - both of whom were apparently toddlers when their Dad disappeared - are now college-age young adults.

And of course, in the eighteen-plus years since Speicher was shot down, the United States went to war in Iraq again. And while there are any number of people who have written and spoken about how many more negatives than positives that have come out of this conflict, the second go-round in Iraq has produced closure for Capt. Speicher's family. In a sorrowful resolution to the nearly two-decade old question about his fate, the Pentagon disclosed Sunday it had received new information last month from an Iraqi citizen that led Marines to recover bones and skeletal fragments — enough for a positive identification. Apparently when Speicher's jet crashed and he was killed, Bedouins buried him in the desert's sands, which is where he remained for almost twenty years.

Almost two decades after he went to war on his nation's behalf, and gave all that he had to give, Captain Speicher is finally coming home. While having him home now may be of little consolation to the family who loved him and who was forced to live without him all, they will finally have him home. From time to time while driving I happen to see other vehicles that have a bumper sticker, "All Gave Some......Some Gave All."

Michael Speicher gave all - and almost twenty years after he did, he is finally going home to his family, who can give him the farewell that he and they both deserve.


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