Thursday, September 2, 2010

End Over End

On Tuesday night - with the eyes of the Nation upon him in a televised address from the Oval Office - President Obama declared an end to Operation Iraqi Freedom, which is the name affixed to the combat mission in Iraq . On Tuesday morning - with the eyes of his family and roughly 200 other friends and loved ones upon him at a funeral mass from Christ Fellowship Church in Elizabeth and thereafter at a burial ceremony at Rosedale Cemetery in Linden - Army Specialist Pedro A. Millet, IV was laid to rest. Millet died in mid-August while serving in combat in Afghanistan. He died only three days after arriving in-country with his unit, killed while on patrol in the southern part of the country by an improvised explosive device. Millet was twenty years young.

It has been almost a decade since the murder of thousands at the hands of cowards on September 11, 2001. Since that horrible day - and it seems almost incomprehensible to me that its 9th anniversary is upon us a week from Saturday - men and women from the various branches of our armed forces have been fighting wars on two continents. Wars against a difficult to define and seemingly impossible to pin down foe: terror. To what degree these engagements have been successful I do not pretend to know. I am neither a student or nor an expert in the field of military tactics and strategy and lacking access to whatever information it is that those who crunch such numbers chew upon in measuring success on the battlefield, I would not hazard a guess.

I know though that even I have enough humanity inside the little charcoal briquette masquerading as a heart to recognize that 20 year old soldiers dying three-quarters of the way around the world in combat is certainly not a good thing. A parent's worst fear is to bury his or her child. On Tuesday, that fear became a reality for this young man's parents. I do not know how one rebounds from such a loss as theirs. I do not know whether - in their shoes - I could. I hope that I never have to find out.

Emerson wrote, "So nigh is grandeur to our dust, So near to God is Man, When Duty whispers low 'Thou must', the Youth replies, 'I can'." Regardless of whether the Youth can do it, is it always fair for us to ask him or her to do it? That is yet another question to which I do not know the answer. It is a question that one dare not ask the family of one young soldier from Elizabeth at this particular moment in time.


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