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29 May 2008

Bond of Valor

In the above photo, taken by the AP in 2004, Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James embraces Marine Staff Sergeant Mark Graunke Jr. during a Veteran's Day ceremony in Dallas, Texas. Graunke was assigned to an EOD Team (Explosives Ordinance Disposal) when an improvised device exploded while he was trying to disarm it while in Iraq in 2003. Graunke lost an eye, a leg and an arm. However, because of his efforts, countless troops were not killed or injured from encountering this cowardly device.

So, what did you do at work today?

of us have unique fellowships with people that have endured similar trials as us. Breast cancer survivors, crime victims, survivors of a disaster, responders to a mass casualty event, war time combatants, those responsible to restore people and things after the aforementioned catastrophes, etc. It is those ties that bind, regardless how far apart we are on other issues.

If you fall
into one of these similar categories, then you will surely look at the above AP photograph and be overcome with emotion.

I had
an acquaintance many years ago sign a book for me that he recently had published. The book was based on a topic that few people knew much about. The back story to some of the events discussed therein were known to only a limited number of folks, which included me. His signature still haunts me:

"To Michael: A new who knows and understands..."

It haunts me because "knowing" and "understanding" some things at great depths sometimes can be burdensome. If you've held a security clearance, been a government witness, or seen sausage being made, then you know of what I speak.

example that comes to mind is new D3 reader, Talisman. She is a chemist by trade and while I know next to nothing about chemistry, I learned the hard way that I am safer with the HAZMAT people I work with walking in front of me with their monitors, rather than walking behind me with me as the guinea pig . Thankfully, I think, chemist types don't look at chemical agents like we do...they know what combinations can cause lethal clouds, peel paint and melt eye balls. For the rest of us, being blissfully ignorant has its advantages.

Being privy
to items related to national security, crime trends and even economic variances is another double edged sword. I'm not talking about reading the Huffington Post or watching the smut on TMZ either. I'm talking about real, honest to goodness inside intelligence...and the experiences that sear your soul as a result as mentioned above.

So for the injured Marine and his surviving predecessor
, they - like so many - have a bond that extends well beyond the generations, beyond the wars that have changed their very being and beyond the physical scars that mar their bodies. They have looked at death. Death has looked at them. And despite it all they were able to live to see another day.


So an epilogue of sorts to a couple of my recent articles. Both updates are from the news and both I found to be disturbing.

It seems that
since the onset of the global war on terror (a media term no doubt) that 580 soldiers have taken their own lives (not including reservists who have returned to their civilian jobs) including a record high of 115 in 2007. In fact, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for someone in the Army behind hostile fire, accidents and illness. As we spoke about on Memorial Day, the suicide rate threatens to surpass all other types of troop fatalities without greater mental health intervention.

For a bit of balance and perspective though, the Army is trying
to catch up with what is surely an unexpected influx of mental health claims. They are hiring hundreds more clinicians to assist returning soldiers and are trying to adjust to the modified deployment terms and accumulated stress from combat weary veterans. It serves little purpose to lambaste them for what has occurred in the past, but with 18 veterans a day - from all US wars - reportedly taking their lives, the Army needs all the support and continued pressure they can get to insure that these returning troops are receiving adequate care.

We've also
learned that some troops are planting a garden to restore a bit of balance to their deployment life and to perhaps soften the sharp edges of their very pointed military mission. But come to find out that a handful of Marines have taken to proselytizing the local Muslim Iraqi's while stationed there, much to the disappointment, disgust and outright protest of the local Iraqi's. At a checkpoint required for Iraqi's to pass in Fallujah, some Marines are reportedly requiring Iraqi's to take coins which bear evangelical messages encouraging the Iraqi's to convert to Christianity.

"Iraq is investigating a report that U.S. military personnel in Fallujah handed-out material that is religious and evangelical in nature."
"Passing Christianity this way is disrespectful."
"...the occupier is planting seeds of strife between the Muslims and Christians."

Now, I spewed
about this very thing at great length in Part 3 of my Save Thee or Sell Thee Series. The war between Muslims and Christians probably transcends a few Marines passing out Convert-to-Christianity propaganda, but these clue challenged zealots sure aren't doing anything to reduce tensions over there either. And the news space that was taken up to write about those dolts could have been spent documenting good works from more deserving soldiers...which I know are plentiful (good troops and good stories).


Val·or (vāl'ər) - Courage and Boldness; Bravery. From the Latin word Valere, to be strong, be of value.

No matter who we are, where we are, what we do or where we do it....we can all be of value. And that, dear reader, is valiant.


Talisman said...

That picture made me tear up. Very moving and very amazing.

Michael M. said...

Me too, Tali, me too.

Kat Wilder said...

People who have "been through the war" — whether literally or some other soul-wrenching event — do share a deep bond.

Oddly enough, all humans share that because in our own ways we are among the "walking wounded," carrying around hurts and pains and misunderstandings that get us to start building walls to protect us. Yet, if we all recognized that in each other, we would see that we truly aren't all that different, black or white, young or old, rich or poor, male or female. We all want the same things — to love and be loved, to be heard and understood, to connect.

Nice post, touching photo, Michael...

Michael M. said...

So often true Kat. Not much separates us but our bias. And as usual, you said it so much more eloquently than I!

Tismee2 said...

If you have read 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - and it's all small stuff' by Richard Carlson you will know that in one chapter he tells you to 'look for the innocence'.

This means to look beyond the spiteful comment, or stupid action to see the innocence underneath.

As Kat says, we all want to be loved and feel secure, just some people don't show it so much or live with situations that make them react badly.

It's a book that makes you think about what's important in life. It would help us all become Valiant.

Very moving photo Michael - thanks.

tt said...

I saw that picture just a few weeks ago. It gave me throat lumps then and it did today.
Very insightful Michael..thanks.

Dana said...

I've left this post in my reader for days now - coming back - re-reading - trying to find the words to say. One line - It haunts me because "knowing" and "understanding" some things at great depths sometimes can be burdensome. - hits hardest. Sometimes, knowledge is power, but knowledge, coupled with understanding, can often be extremely burdensome. Sharing that burden, no matter what it might be, lessens its hold on one's heart.

Thank you for this post. It reminds that what is difficult to do is often most rewarding.

Michael M. said...

Tismee2 - Great comment. As I mentioned in the Save Thee, Sell Thee series....I have mixed feelings about how deep someone should have to dig to find the goodness in someone else. Especially when the 'actor' is doing very little to exhibit their inner goodness in the first place.

Michael M. said...

Me too, tt, me too!

Michael M. said...

Dana - You are welcome.

"...what is difficult to do is often most rewarding." That takes me to another nugget from Hellen Keller:

"The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there was no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse."

Enjoy your day!

BigBro said...

Brother M: I hope that eventually find whatever it is you are so desperatley searching for.

Michael M. said...

Thankfully bb, if we're not searching for something, then we're just standing still...