2/27/2009

The Return of the Five Thousand: Honoring the Human Costs of War

Dovercasket08After eighteen years it just might be possible to visually link the lives lost in wars and other times of hostilities and the return to family and nation of the immediate reality of those deaths. The restrictions have been partially lifted on photographing the return of the flag draped caskets of those who members of the Armed Forces who have died. Prior to this ruling the only pictures we had were those gotten by use of the freedom of information act.

Those pictures are stark and properly honoring, and give credit to the honorable reception of the remains of the fallen. We will not need many of these, but the reality on the ground, on the return home of the dead, can now be attested to by the witness of the photograph.


Since 1991 when the restriction was put in place over 5,000 US members of the Armed Forces have died in the Gulf, Afghanistan and the Iraq Wars. It is hard to get much of an idea as to what this number looks like when made up of individual items. When written as a number 5,000 seems to too large. When a "x" markes each person, it spreads out quite a lot.

Those who would have us remember 9/11 and its almost 3,000 deaths have visual images that reach into our psyche. Now, perhaps, we will also have visual images of the deaths due to the wars where no pictures were allowed.

And of course there are no pictures of the thousands and thousands who were civilian collateral damage or worse the result of the general disorder brought on by the wars themselves.

It is time that there again be the visual reminder of the human costs of war.

Here is 5,000 one X at a time.

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22 comments:

  1. Not to mention everything all the Dead could have done in their Lifes, if they would have been allowed them.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bob of Fremont28/2/09 3:09 PM

    And you can multiply those "Xs" 200,000 times or more to express the deaths of the unborn since Roe vs. Wade legalized infanticide in America.

    I mean, as long as we are talking about innocents....

    Bob of Fremont

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bob of Fremont28/2/09 3:14 PM

    Sorry my math is off. When you divide 35 million babies by 5,000 "Xs" you only get a factor of 7,000, still a huge amount we should all agree.

    And as Goran says:

    "Not to mention everything all the Dead (babies) could have done in their lifes, if they would have been allowed them."

    One difference though, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines volunteered for their service, I don't think the same can be said for the babies who died.

    Bob of Fremont

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bob of Fremont, this is not the post to tangent off on abortion. Remember that many of us have friends and family members who have died or been horribly wounded in these wars. None of us volunteered for military service, yet we have felt considerable pain and worry. Show some respect, please. Abortion is not being promoted here.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mark, this is very moving and I appreciate your efforts to keep the war in Iraq on people's minds, especially since the media are now treating it as a non-story.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bob, our troops volunteered to defend our country, not to die for the greater glory of Halliburton and the American Enterprise Institute.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "No greater love," isn't that how Jesus described it, "is the (one) who lays down (his/her) life for another"?

    Thanks for this, Mark, and your brave witness. No greater love, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's true Bob of Fremont, you do have a mercenary army these days.

    Which is wrong, says the Church, which only allows for self defence (pace Laterans III and IV).

    Still the 20 year olds that died, died just as the innocent - and they died for no Cause and no reason.

    Furthermore, they died having been lied to (WMD & c.).

    ReplyDelete
  9. And a youth out of work and out of education, who signs up for military sevice in the hope (often deluded) of having the one or both, isn't really "volunteering", is he/se?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Richard III1/3/09 8:36 AM

    And just what did those 5000 die for as well as the unknown number of civilians who have also perished?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Okay,
    I was going to skip this post (I get real "crazy" about this stuff) but the comments of Bob from Fremont force me into this.

    Just so we have the record straight. I am a former Marine and combat veteran from Viet Nam. I hold a Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster and a Purple Heart. I buried a lot of friends and comrades-in-arms in during my stay. Yes, I am/was a volunteer.

    How dare you connect the issue of abortion with the deaths of soldiers. These people, those who volunteered did so so that you could sit in your chair and make smug remarks about their sacrifice!? I am sick and tired of the ultra-right wing making disparaging remarks about the service of my brothers and sisters in arms. Bob, you are cut from the same bolt of cloth that tore up John Kerry and Senator Murtha. Tell you what, the next time you think about that, don't talk, get your tired a** out of the rocker, away from the computer and go down and volunteer. Work in a hospital or in a school or join the service. Do anything but don't sit there and criticize someone else for doing something about the state of our affairs. There should be no free rides. You and George Bush and all the people like you think that you can criticize someone else for actually doing something while you hide behind your "flying boy scout" wings or worse your let someone else pay the price while I enjoy the comforts.

    Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

    To my friend here, I apologize for the rant. The price we all pay when it comes to this stuff is way too high for someone like Bob to blow it off like it was some mere statistic from a mathematics problem. I hold the President, no matter who he or she is, to a higher standard. We have a professional military that will go where they are told to go and do what is required of them. It is the President's responsibility to make absolutely sure that we as a nation, do not squander these lives in a useless conflict because he had nothing better to do on a Saturday night. And creating some bogus propaganda in order to play war is the highest of sins.

    Thank you Mark for the rant, someday I will share with all of you what I really feel. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Mark, thank you. It has greatly disturbed me that we have not been able to view the reality of lives lost in the wars. I once saw a video of the honorable and respectful manner with which the military personnel treated the remains of those who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was quite moving. I believe that the video was subsequently suppressed.

    The X's help toward envisioning the reality of the numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  13. How about a thought for all that Collateral Damage who just happened to be in the way of all our Big Plans, and died by the thousands upon thousands? Surely their lives are just as valuable as any 2 celled zygote.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Leave it to someone to link deaths in war to abortion. No go.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I find myself moving towards the idea that war is never the correct answer.

    It is not just 5,000 Americans, it is Poles, British, Hungarian and so many Iraqis both military and civilian who have lost their lives or experienced devastating injuries.

    Was it "worth it?" It seems obscene to even try to answer that -- to place relative values on liberty and life. I cannot even begin to answer that question.

    I suppose if a free Iraq actually does emerge as we leave, we can claim something was achieved. I don't know and I cannot value it.

    FWIW
    jimB

    ReplyDelete
  16. so sad...let's pray for the families - that they know real comfort in the love of Christ (Romans 5:8)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Father Mark,

    Among many things, I'm a USAF retiree who not only served at Dover AFB (to yer north), but also had the somber honor of supporting the arrival of the Marines who were casualties of the Beirut Barracks attack in 1983. I'm also an Anglican libertarian with no love for the Iraqi adventure of the previous administration. Too, I appreciate your effort to make the loss of young American life tangible.
    All of this said, I have reservations about the publication of these photos. From this old sergeant's POV, it appears that these photos are being used by some to foraward an agenda. That, in my estimation, cheapens the sacrifice of these youg Americans, and places "some" (not all) of these advocates on the level of the dullards at Westboro Baptist. My two cents.
    God's Peace...

    ReplyDelete
  18. Andy...thank you for your comment. You are right. The photos of flag draped coffins can easily become an icon for this or that message group, some from the left, some from the right.

    The Washington Post has done a "faces of the fallen" web page for a long time and there they post photos of those who died. As far as I know those individual pictures are not used for other purposes because they are not generalized, but very particular.

    For four and a half years, every Sunday, a group of us have gathered in Lewes for a Silent Vigil of 45 minutes. We have been very clear to say that this vigil is to honor the dead and to do so by reminding ourselves that they did indeed die and that this is part of the human costs of war. We have resisted making the vigil a political statement against the Bush administration or against the military. Of course what we do asks the question as to whether or not the human costs of war is in this context justified. And, as far as I know, no one stands on the line who approves of President Bush's taking us into this war. But there are no anti-Bush statements, no anti-military statements. There are the numbers of US dead, wounded and Iraqi civilians dead, as well as signs for peace.

    Occasionally someone has come with a picture of returning caskets, but they have not held them more than one or two Sundays. I think they ended up agreeing that the image was too easily assumed to be a dishonoring rather than an image of the reality of the returning home.

    So, as with most things, it is more complex than it appears.

    Thanks for the note.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Let us also not forget those who have survived. I work in a VA Hospital, and I see firsthand the men and women that come back from war. Some of them do ok, but a lot are still trying to cope with all they saw and had to do for their country. When we consider the cost, it is good to remember them too, those who have lost arms, legs and/or minds in this and other struggles, and keep them and their families in our prayers too.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Bob of Fremont2/3/09 8:53 PM

    Fred Schwarz:

    Well just to be clear, I am also a combat veteran of the Vietnam war, so I guess I have also earned the right to express my opinion on this or any other issue. Like you, I have many friends on The Wall in Washington, D.C.

    That does not minimize the loss of soldiers or the innocent unborn.

    Nha Trang 67-68.

    Bob of Fremont

    ReplyDelete
  21. Bob,
    Semper Fi bud! Your logic escapes me!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Bob of Fremont5/3/09 6:05 PM

    Fred:

    I appreciate the Semper Fi! But I was an Army slug so I should disclose that before my Marine friends take issue.

    I guess where our logic separates is that I grieve the loss of our soldiers, but I also grieve the loss of innocent unborn children.

    Those on your side only grieve the soldiers, the others they view as a nuisance and unliving.

    We're not going to solve that here, but if you're talking logic, I find yours lacking more than mine.

    Just for information I am also anti-death penalty as well. I don't believe we have the right to take any life, born, unborn or not well lived.

    Bob of Fremont

    ReplyDelete

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