Thursday, June 14, 2007



“All of us denounce war – all of us consider it man’s greatest stupidity. And yet wars happen and they involve the most passionate lovers of peace because there are still barbarians in the world who set the price for peace at death or enslavement and the price is too high.” Ronald Reagan.

By now you’ve probably seen the picture of a Marine Lieutenant Colonel presenting a folded American flag to eight year old Christian Golczynski at the funeral for his father, Staff Sergeant Marcus Golczynski, killed on March 27th in Iraq. It’s an incredibly moving photo that has been widely circulated around the internet and on national newscasts.

The Lieutenant Colonel in the photo, taken by Aaron Thompson of Gannett, Tennessee, is a very good friend of mine, Ric Thompson, with whom I lived and served in Iraq. Ric sent me the photo and an article from The Tennessean newspaper shortly after the funeral. The article’s author, in trying to preserve the bravado of the Corps, describes Ric as having shown “a trace of emotion” when presenting the flag to the son of a Marine he had previously commanded. Without sharing Ric’s words, I’ll just say he told me he showed more than just “a trace of emotion.”

Ric’s first tours in the Marines were as a helicopter pilot. Then he became an infantry officer and has run the gamut of battalion level infantry billets. For fun he enjoys martial arts, ground fighting. He’s a good Marine and a tough guy. But, this was still a tough thing to do.

It is hard for those who’ve served to see others fall, to hear about the deaths of our brothers and sisters in arms, and to see such images.

There are bonds created with those who stand by your side in a combat zone. There is an inherent relationship, a tie, to others who may not have been at your side, but were also there. Sometimes they alone get it. Only they can understand.

I’ve witnessed their bravery, yet I still stand in awe of all they accomplish and so willingly sacrifice.

How can you not love them? You can’t help but to, so it makes their deaths difficult to grasp at times.

How personal their passing is varies for each of us, but those who’ve been there and stood with them understand the significance of their sacrifice and feel the impact of their loss. Probably not at the level their families do, but none the less, the loss of our nation’s finest young men and women impacts those of us who’ve also served.

So it goes with the death of Staff Sergeant Golczynski. So it went with the passing of Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha a year ago. So it goes with the loss of each during the Global War on Terrorism. Their deaths are not taken for granted, nor do they occur without emotion on behalf of their comrades.

These losses and experiencing a war first-hand can accelerate the process by which one fully comprehends that war is “man’s greatest stupidity.”

Yet wars occur because evil permeates the world, and we, with our fallibility and finite wisdom, choose war when we see it as the last or the best option when an aggressor sets the price for their version of peace too high.

We then, inevitably, find ourselves grappling with the deaths of those who commit themselves to standing between us and the barbarians. But we also, as General George Patton pointed out, “Thank God that such men lived.”

I understand how high terrorists have set the price for peace. That is why, even when grieving and wrestling with the losses, I advocate for the victory of our nation against them.

In advocating as such, many a moniker have I been labeled with, including being “pro-war.” I’ll take the name calling. I’m a big boy. I’m a Marine, I’ve had worse.

Personally, I’d prefer that no wars ever happened. In so many ways, I’m “anti-war” because I understand the costs. But I’m not naive. I’ve seen enough of the world to know that the barbarians do exist and they exact a price for their ideology. To believe otherwise, and fail to concede that use of force has to be an option, crosses a threshold from being “anti-war” to perilously foolish.

However, I have to ask, am I or anyone else “pro-war” who knows full well where terrorists have set their price, who comprehends the costs of the fight, and yet continues to encourage victory over this enemy? If wanting your country to succeed in its endeavors against those who’ve sworn their lives to the destruction of our nation, and acknowledging that it will take a certain level of violence and sacrifice to do so makes me pro-war, then yes, I’m pro-war.

But if the pro-war label is being applied as a means to insinuate a callousness concerning the costs of war, particularly in terms of the lives of our nation’s warriors, then you and I will have a problem. Because the sacrifice of men like Staff Sergeant Golczynski, and seeing my friend present his son that flag moves me more than you’ll ever know, especially if you haven’t walked in my desert dust covered boots.

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