Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Life and Death of Those Who Do and Do Not Make a Difference

By Brian Bresnahan

By the time this gets published, the body of an American hero, Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha, United States Marine Corps, will be on its way back to, if not already arrived at, the small town of Clarks, Nebraska. Brent’s body is being escorted by another American hero, his brother, fellow Marine and friend, Corporal Dyrek Zoucha.

Brent left for boot camp on 12 June 2005 and was killed in Iraq on 9 June 2006.

Dyrek, already a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq, served alongside Brent in 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. In fact, Dyrek had requested and been granted a four month extension in the Marine Corps so he could serve with his brother when he learned Brent was headed to his battalion.

Now he’s bringing his little brother home.

The emotions of Brent’s death stand in stark contrast to the emotions I felt when I learned of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s death the day prior.

After my time in Iraq I view death differently than before. It is a much more emotional issue. Not that any particularly tragic or traumatic event caused a decrease to my threshold for which emotion about death is triggered. But rather, I believe it’s born out of a much higher reverence and respect for life than before. One can easily gain an all new understanding of both the fragility and value of life after some time in Iraq.

So, I never thought I would ever rejoice in the actual death of anyone, until I heard of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s. I thought my emotions concerning death were always going to be of the kind I felt when I learned of Brent’s passing. But, I found myself relieved and jubilant about Zarqawi’s demise.

His death brought relief to the anger I had felt when trying to work with Iraqi’s who would no longer visit with me or would send someone in their stead to inform me they couldn’t be seen with American’s because they’d been taken away, threatened, and shown videos of people being “slaughtered.” I don’t remember the Arabic word used, but in our conversations, the word “beheaded” was always interpreted as “slaughtered.”

Zarqawi’s death closes the chapter on frustration many of us felt, knowing we had him trapped in Fallujah in the spring of ’04, when the assault to retake the city was called off for seemingly unknown reasons. This frustration had only grown when we learned that it was Zarqawi himself who had claimed personal responsibility for beheading Nick Berg shortly thereafter.

His death brings relief and elation. Not in the way we rejoice for those who pass away after fighting a long, painful bout with cancer and go to be with their Savior, but simple happiness because he’d been killed and that he reaped what he’d sown. I am happy for the families who lost loved ones at his hands. I am happy for those Iraqi friends who no longer have to fear the rabid bite of that evil being. I am joyful that piece of human debris no longer stalks this earth.

However, Brent’s death brings both sorrow and pride.

I take solace in knowing he died doing what he chose to do, what he wanted to do, serving and protecting his fellow Americans, being a Marine. Although we mourn his loss and struggle to cope with his passing, we also understand and honor the meaning and impact his sacrifice has for all of us.

His life will be honored and remembered by those who knew him, loved him, and had the privilege to serve with him. He will always be remembered for what he did, not just because he died. His sacrifice and selflessness will be honored and remembered with each breath of freedom we enjoy.

Abu Musab al Zarqawi on the other hand, will only be remembered for the atrocities he committed, for his evil, for his complete disregard for human life, and the wake of destruction he left through the sea of Christian and Islamic humanity. We will only resurrect his memory from the trash heap of history’s most disgusting and diabolical figures when we need to remind ourselves of just how evil men can be and the destruction they can produce when left unchecked.

Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha will be remembered for sacrificing all that he was and all that life had to offer a young man; voluntarily doing so for the freedom and safety of others. His memory and sacrifice will strengthen the bonds of brotherhood that hold Marines together and contribute to the mystique and ethos of “The Few, The Proud.”

Some said that Zarqawi’s death makes no difference. I agree, because his time here on earth was wasted on purely evil pursuits. Thus, in the end, he didn’t make a difference. But during his short life, Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha did. He embodied Ronald Reagan’s observation that “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. Marines don’t have that problem.” Brent’s life and death made a difference.

Semper Fidelis, Lance Corporal Zoucha. God speed.

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