A Cautious Man
January 03, 2006
 
A Prayer For The Souls Of The Departed
I've written here before about Edward August "Augie" Schroeder. He grew up in my community in New Jersey. He graduated from our high school in 2000; my own son graduated from that same school last year. I did not know him or his parents personally, but many of my friends and neighbors did. Like my own son, he was a Scout, a town pool lifeguard, took part in assorted extracurricular activities, and was active in his church's youth group. In his yearbook portrait (which you can see in the story at this link), he looks just like a lot of the kids of our friends, and like our childrens' classmates. Heck, my son has a similar haircut in his yearbook picture. A lot of us see our own children, when we look at his picture.

He died while riding in a lightly armored, amphibious vehicle in the middle of the desert.

At the time, we saw that his parents were very strong people, who were not afraid to make their feelings known - His father had asked a friend to pass this on to the community through a local internet message board: "Also, we want them to know that the question is not why, but what next."

Cpl. Schroeder's father has continued making his feelings known, and did so today in an essay published in the Washington Post (which you may have read already, since it's all over the web today):
Life, Wasted
Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed

By Paul E. Schroeder

Tuesday, January 3, 2006; Page A17

Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."

Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

...

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

...

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.
As always, read the whole thing.

So, what more do we need to hear? It is no longer the case that "your silence passes as honor". If you agree that everything is just as it should be, then that is your right. But, if you do not agree, then you can't just sit there. We've been told what we have to do, so we had best start doing it.

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