Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Honored Dead

When an American news outlet tells breaks to its readers news of the death of a U.S. soldier or Marine, rather than illustrate it with a picture of a pile of meat in a mess of bloody rags, my recommendation is it use a photo like this.

The caption (AP) is: Sgt. David M. Heath, 30, of LaPorte, Ind., standing with his son Derek in this undated photo, was killed in Iraq Monday, Aug. 16, 2004. Heath died when his patrol was attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the Sadr City district of Baghdad.

This is one of the most poignant things I've seen. Look at that boy's face. He loves his dad. It's obviously Derek's room. Superman stands in one corner poised for flight, to save the world; the globe is on the shelf in the other. What will all that mean to that boy now, and for the rest of his life?

There's nothing "pro-war" in this picture. Rather, it offers a heartbreaking testimony to the tragedy of war, any war, right or wrong. For those of us who support this campaign to liberate Iraq, amid the greater War on Terror, this picture illustrates Hemingway's dictum:

A defensive war, which must necessarily turn to aggressive at the earliest moment, is the necessary great counter-crime. But never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and the dead.

And the picture honors the man, Sgt. David M. Heath. It shows the life he made, the world which he helped create and which he donned that uniform to protect.