I've mentioned before that I live in Fredericksburg, Virginia. One of many wonderful things about this beautiful and historic rivertown is our hometown newspaper, The Free-Lance Star. The Op-Ed page editors occasionally humor me by publishing one of my soapbox ramblings. I thought I would share a couple of them with you over the next couple days. I am finding myself, now that I'm in the rear with the gear, compelled to respond to things I read in this well-balanced paper.
This coming weekend I will be meeting with the father of a young Marine lieutenant who was killed in action on November 16, 2005. Donald McGlothlin's son, 1st Lt. Ryan McGlothlin , died leading his platoon during a particularly hard battle in Old Ubaydi, Iraq. Yesterday I also recieved an email from the grandparents of one of Lt. McGlothlin's Marines, LCpl Justin Mayfield (his portrait appears in my December 26th posting), letting me know that Justin had just recieved a Bronze Star with Combat 'V' for his efforts that day. He and his fireteam came to the aid of fellow Marines at a hotly contested farmhouse. Justin has also just proposed to his high school sweetheart! These are real families investing their blood and treasure every single minute of every hour of everyday to make the world safer for us all. Those who cannot grasp this profoundly simple reality have only my genuine old school in your face disdain.
This particular Op-Ed piece was motivated in large part by my personal experience of both family members and of Marines who've made the ultimate sacrifice. If you go to the link for Larry Syverson's commentary, which I'm primarily responding to, you will, in my humble opinion, read the most pathetic self-serving and transparent anti-war rant that will ever enter your brain housing group.
Here's my two cents:
A recent edition of The Free Lance-Star featured a very interesting juxtaposition of two viewpoints with respect to the war in Iraq. One writer, Wade Zirkle, talked about our nation's war effort cogently, within the greater strategic context of world events and the disconcerting imperfections that often attend the unfolding of history ["Through a Marine's eyes: Iraq a necessary part of a greater war," April 28]. The other writer, Larry Syverson, presented us with a highly emotional rant rooted in his own anxieties and fears ["Iraq costs too much in blood, money," April 28]. Zirkle spoke with measured reason born of actual events and international political consequences. Syverson, in obvious desperation, reduced the prosecution of this war to a dollar amount--and then proceeded to opine about imagined superior ways to spend if not our blood, at least our treasure.
Like Zirkle, I've been to Iraq twice as a Marine. I've also been to Afghanistan on two separate tours. I agree completely with his assessment. In a recent article in The Free Lance-Star, U.S. Army Capt. Matt Thompson--a Stafford native who served four combat tours in the war--asserted strongly, as most returning combat vets interviewed by this paper have done, his belief that the fight in Iraq is worth it.
We who've actually invested our blood and treasure believe in the mission wholeheartedly, even in the face of the horrors and realities of war. I've seen the price being paid. I was with Lebanon, Va., native 1st Lt. Ryan McGlothlin when he was killed in action Nov. 16 in Ubaydi, Iraq. I closed his eyes, said a prayer, and covered him up.
I've also been a public-school teacher. Syverson laments that the treasure being spent to establish democracy in Iraq would be better spent on education. But the chronic problems plaguing education in Fredericksburg, the state of Virginia, and across this great nation will not be solved with money. The past 40 years should teach us that. The problem in our schools is the absence of parents. No Child Left Behind should really be called No Parents Present. Money is not going to change this reality.
Syverson would also like us to believe that the money would be better spent on health care. The overwhelming majority of health care issues in this country stem from individual lifestyle choices. Until the consumer marketing juggernaut stops pushing alcohol, tobacco, fat-laden foods, poor relationship choices, and fast cars, we'll have a health-care crisis no matter how much money we throw in that direction.
And building housing with the money? Every major city in America is actively tearing down the socially engineered housing projects of the 1960s that turned inner cities into war zones during the '80s and '90s. People value and care about their homes when they have to earn and pay for them--not when they're handed out like spare change.
The answer to America's problems in education, housing, and health care lies in personal responsibility and accountability. Plain and simple. Throwing money at these realities will never take the place of real folks stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing.
Syverson's three sons are all in Iraq. I find it interesting he couldn't trot out one good anti-war quote from any of them. Syverson's talking points are entirely tainted by his own discomfort and anxiety. Narcissism, anyone?
Apparently his sons are more concerned and committed to investing their blood and treasure in a better tomorrow for Syverson's future grandchildren than in making Mommy and Daddy sleep better. Perhaps the sons--like Zirkle, Thompson, and myself--have had, and continue to experience on a daily basis, reason for hope and glad promise for the Iraqis and our own descendants.
MICHAEL D. FAY is a combat artist and warrant officer in the Marine Corps. He recently returned to Fredericksburg after his latest tour of duty in Iraq.
Date published: 5/4/2006