Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Watching NPR's Honor Roll

The Lehrer News Hour regularly runs its "honor roll" of military members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's hard not to watch, even though I keep remembering the bad weeks of the Vietnam war, when over a hundred would be killed. I can't help but compare the treatment in the two different times.


You look at the screen. I'm struck by the variety in ages. At least in memory Vietnam was a young man's war, the riflemen were young draftees and young recruits. This war affects a broader range of ages. Which is harder to take--the young kid who signed up just out of high school with his or her whole life ahead, or the 35 year old sergeant who probably leaves a widow and children behind?

You look at the places. It's all too easy to romanticize, but the names of the towns and small cities could roll off the tongue. Several years ago CBS News used to run a regular feature, called "Everyone has a story". The reporter/writer would turn his back on a map of the US and toss a dart over his shoulder. Then go to the place closest to where the dart landed. The method meant that he was always visiting rural and small town America, the same areas where many of today's military seem to come from.

And you look at the names. I get the stereotypical liberal satisfaction when I see the diversity of the names--everyone should die for their country. But, perhaps because of my background, I grow sad when I see the Jr's and the III's following the names. Those simple letters speak of a pride in family, which I can understand, and the possibility of an end to a line.

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