One of my best friends just graduated from Marine Corps boot camp. I called to congratulate him on his first day out, eager to share my pride in his accomplishment.
We also tried to figure out when we would get to hang out again, but without much luck. He had more training and I wouldn't be home for a while.
"Don't worry though," he said with a morbid deadpan. "We'll see each other again before one of us dies." The line rendered me speechless, and more than anything before made perfectly clear the risks that he would soon be facing.
One day later, on June 15, Tony Snow, the White House Press
Secretary, said when asked to comment on the 2,500th casualty
in the Iraq war, "It's a number."
line made it perfectly clear the callous disregard my friend's
risk was given by those who will order him to war. He will
go to Iraq, just like hundreds of thousands before him,
and dutifully fight for his country. Yet the leadership
that will send him there has, with drastic consequences,
disrespected that devotion at every turn.
As of June 20, 2,504 U.S. soldiers had been killed in Iraq. Fifty-nine percent of those were between the ages of 18 and 25. These are our friends, our classmates, our siblings and our sweethearts. This war is our generation's war, whether we like it or not.
And though (or perhaps because) our generation does not hold elected office or senior Pentagon appointments, we must speak out consistently and strongly for the interests of our peers. As our friends ship out, we must stand up behind them and demand that their lives are taken seriously.
What does that look like? It means clearly defining achievable goals that can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time, and a commitment to bring home the troops when they are met.
It means following international law, ensuring the uniform our soldiers wear stands for the ideals we claim to be fighting for. It means shared sacrifice from the entire country to muster the resources necessary to properly equip our soldiers as they ship out and care for them when they return.
And it means a promise, delivered in the form of new elected leadership, to never again use their lives so recklessly.
More soldiers will undoubtedly die in Iraq, but no matter what we do, keeping these as the guiding principles for our actions will respect the lives of those on the front lines and honor the sacrifices of those who have already perished. Our generation should expect nothing less.