I watched PBS News Hour the other night. On the screen, they rolled the pictures and the names of those who have died serving in our current two wars, as their names and pictures have been made available. PBS does this on a regular basis.
As far as I know, these pictures and names are the only ones we are allowed to see. These pictures and names are our only opportunity to learn who they are and what they look like. Otherwise, they are unknown except to those that families, friends, and comrades at arms.
They arrive in secret, cared for by funeral details, draped in a flag and delivered to families and friends -- all of this hidden from public view. Their fellow warriors do the honors and the families receive the flags and listen to the words honoring them but the general public never hears or sees them, nor does the public see their grieving families and friends. We only hear the obligatory clichés whenever our leaders or the media decide in their infinite wisdom we are sufficiently numbed to handle the information.
We have lost over four thousand anonymous young men and women in our current wars. They are not real to any but those that knew them. The families never forget them, no matter how many years go by. Each time I watch that segment of the News Hour, I think back to WW2 and those men whom I came to know and who are now gone forever. It is usually a brief moment, but the mind can still see and remember. The family and friends never forget.
But today, they remain out of sight to the the public. To our leaders these individual men and women with families and friends become mere statistics on a list of casualties.
None of this has to do with how one views these wars. Once one dons the uniform, they do what they are asked to do.
I do not understand why our Veterans’ Organizations have accepted keeping them hidden. Our dead are a cost of war and we should all be sharing in the sorrow their deaths bring. We should all be aware of who they are and honor them. The magnetic bumper stickers have become clichés and meaningless.
It is time that we all learn their names, see their pictures, and honor them publicly for serving when they were called.
Our media should be honoring them publicly and regularly. They are not statistics. They are our neighbors and part of our neighbor’s family. They will never return and should never be forgotten or hidden from view. They should not arrive secretly. They represent the horrible cost of armed conflict and deserve better treatment regardless of one’s view of the politics of any war that we send our youth to fight.