He’s no kin of mine, not really. He’s my son’s nephew. My grandson’s cousin.
Chris Monroe is in the army. Over in Afghanistan. He’s a bright young man and a wonderful writer. And heart. Chris has plenty of heart in every sense of that word.
He writes a blog for the folks back home. Take a minute right now to read a couple of them:
I never had the burden – or the privilege – of military service. Too young for WWII, married with a dependent family during Korea, and over the hill when Viet Nam was the theater of battle.
It’s hard for me to understand and appreciate the courage, the commitment and the discipline that are demanded of the young people who serve in our armed forces today.
Like many Americans, I tend to think of war in political terms.
Good wars, bad wars. Smart wars, dumb wars. Undeclared wars and wars against ephemeral things like terrorism that don’t wear uniforms or abide by civilized traditions of warfare.
Tennyson captured the soldier’s creed in his immortal poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
“Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die.”
I suppose that’s the way it must be. In order to function amidst the mayhem, to do your job in the face of slaughter you must either be very sure that what you are doing must be done, or else very immune from asking any questions.
But someday they will come home. And some day the 25 year olds will be 35 and 45 and 55.
And they will remember, as Chris Monroe will remember, comrades who didn’t come back, or came home mutilated. Comrades who were like family on a distant battlefield.
Will they ask questions then?
What exactly was it they were trying to do in that Godforsaken place?
What was the President thinking? What did Congress want to accomplish?
Why did we go there? Why did we stay there?
Was it to punish the people who destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon?
Was it to liberate Afghan women and make sure their girls got an education?
Was it to establish a democratic government there? One that would be friendly toward the United States?
Was it to interdict the opium traffic? Or to protect sources of Middle Eastern oil?
Was it all about religion? Or money?
It is trite to say that we live in a dangerous world. Not every tsunami is caused by an earthquake. Slaughter in a Colorado movie theater is as senseless, unpredictable and inevitable as madness and sin.
We cannot prevent a recurrence of 9-11 by watering down the constitutional rights of the American people or invading foreign countries and setting up agreeable governments.
There is no guarantee that people liberated from tyrannical leaders will not install another government equally unfriendly to the United States.
Our constitution was written, among other things, to provide for the common defense. There is nothing in the preamble about manifest destiny. Nothing about going on offense.
It gives the power to declare war to the representatives of the people. To the Congress, not to the President.
Perhaps, some day when Chris Monroe and his comrades have come home, there will be a time for civilized dialog in America. A time to reason why, before we send more young men and women into harm’s way to do or die.
I certainly hope so.