One of the earliest correspondents I made on the Internet was a guy named Andrew. We were both bloggers of a more political bent at the time. We agreed on a fair number of things, though as is often the case we went back and forth in email and on our respective blogs most when we disagreed.
We hadn’t spoken in a year when I enlisted his help on something. I wanted to try to contact an old flame of mine named Cecilia that had joined the military and was quite possibly at that point serving in Iraq. She had little family to speak of and not many good friends, so I thought that maybe we could exchange some letters and get back in touch while she was serving wherever she was serving.
Andrew was the only other person I knew that was in the military, so I dashed him an email asking how difficult it would be for a person in one branch of the military to locate another. Andrew went above and beyond trying to help me find her, though we never did. The whole process was interesting enough that I filed it in the back of my mind as the set-up for a novel.
Andrew was killed last week in a “small-arms fire attack” while serving in Iraq, becoming one of the first two casualties of the new year.
I’m not going to pretend that he and I were very close to amp up the drama. Other than our spars, crossposts, and the time we spent trying to track Cecilia down… I really didn’t have much contact with him. That he was willing to help a virtual stranger out, though, tells me a lot about the kind of guy that he was.
He wrote an article in the Rocky Mountain News about why he was going to serve in Iraq.
I am not a constitutional scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I understand that there are arguments to be made that the Iraq war is in some way unconstitutional, but since I have seen no arguments to that extent argued before an appellate court, I will work on the assumption that the Iraq war was approved in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. That being the case, then legally my oath to support and defend the Constitution holds regarding the Iraq war.
That is not just a fallback to my first answer. Even people like me, who believe that government should be relatively small, don’t generally dispute the need for military and police forces to protect the rights of all citizens. In the case of the Army, we exist to protect the citizens from external threats. And it is the responsibility of the government to decide the nature of these threats and how it will utilize the Armed Forces to deal with them.
It is not for individual soldiers to refuse such orders. A soldier has a duty to refuse unlawful orders, but individual soldiers simply cannot reasonably argue that a war itself is unlawful; that is a question that must be decided at the highest levels. If individual soldiers may decline to participate in a war, that is an invitation for mob rule: we agree to serve our country, not to serve when we agree with the decisions our leaders make. The system would not work otherwise.
He also wrote a letter to be published on a blog that he contributed on the event of his death.
What I don’t want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I’m dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren’t going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life. So if you’re up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can’t laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.
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