The face of a nation...

It is often hard to sketch out a topic with some regularity for this blog.  Ostensibly it is a military blog with items of interest to the military community.  At times it is a political blog, a skeptic’s blog, a technology blog, a gaming blog, a personal journal and once in a while it is humorous.  It is many things, but most of all it is a collection of thoughts set out for consideration. 


It is a source of validation for my own sanity and reason.


It was my birthday Saturday before last.  It was also the day that Joseph Patrick Dwyer, an Army medic, died in Pinehurst, North Carolina.  Dwyer was thirty-one years old.  A marker I have long since passed.  He is notable for many things, but will be remembered as the image of American fighting forces in Iraq.  The picture of him running with a wounded Iraqi child was a perfect representation of our armed services. 


His battle clad form (complete with eye glasses) topped by a visage painted with concern for the well being of a child sprinted across a war zone – seeking safety and succor for the injured boy.  He joined the Army after the events of September 11th.  His service was recognized with the award of the Combat Medical Badge (CMB).


What I find most compelling about the loss of this young man is the level of sacrifice he offered to his nation, his fellow soldiers and Iraqi citizens.  There are so many messages contained in this one life that it would be worthwhile to reflect upon it in relation to our own.    


I spent the fourth of July in the mountains of western North Carolina.  I sat on the street in Hendersonville and watched their small parade roll past me.  There were no marching bands and only a small color guard from the American Legion at the head of the parade.  The entire parade consisted of beauty queens in convertibles, car clubs, the Salvation Army disaster truck and a trailer full of Cub Scouts.  Ironically, for the whole of the one mile route – no one was on foot.  It was a pleasant, innocent scene.  The event was a striking contrast to operations which are no doubt underway in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Later while driving to lunch, we passed a collection of Women in Black – protesting the actions of our government in this conflict (actually any conflict).  They stood outside the old courthouse and held their signs.  In their hats and tailored black dresses, they could be any collection of mature women prepared for a solemn outing.  They stood with black placards waving to the odd automobile which passed them by.  Citizen Prime offered an encouraging wave.


I smiled to myself.  It is only through the actions of citizens like Mr. Dwyer that we can engage this open, often painful, discourse.  It is, in fact, this very sort of sacrifice which preserves the rights of the people to question and challenge their government. 


Mr. Dwyer’s actions were undertaken of his own free will.  They were born of a concern for his family and his nation.  His path led him to demonstrate to the world the breadth and depth of American compassion and resolve.  Ultimately, he made the final sacrifice.  Not on the battlefield of a foreign land – but at home in the realm of the mind.  It is possible for someone to give too much of themselves, until nothing remains to sustain them. 


I say to those who are going or have been in harm’s way – look to your own spirit and to that of your comrades.  As much as the flesh will bear, the mind carries wounds as well.  Do not let them fester.


For PFC Dwyer, his war is over.  He now stands in the sacred space of those who bear the burdensome tasks of this nation, willingly and with honor.