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Remembering why we need to remember

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Wednesday, November 9th, 2005 — The other day, I came across a frayed and yellowed letter carefully written in the hand of our then-young son, Michael. It was dated Jan. 4, 1991, and was addressed to Representative Tom Campbell.

The letter began, "I'm very concerned that we might go to war, even thouh I am so young." With the innocence of youth he spoke about the inevitable deaths of innocent people, and how war would probably make things worse.

Then he came to what was really bothering him. "I realize now that the main reason I wrote is that I know twon innocent people very well. They're both in the age range for war, and they are my brothers. I'm very scared.

"Please don't go to war."

History finished this letter. Later that month the United States would lead the coalition forces in Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. Michael's two draft age brothers, our sonse, were not called to fight. But from the beginning of time many young men and women, all brothers or sisters, sons or daughters have found themselves in harm's way in defense of our right to collectively live under a night sky filled with stars, not bombs, and to spend our days in pursuit of what matters most to us.

Nov. 11th is Veteran's Day. Only recently, I learned the interesting history behind this date, which precedes the official end of World War I by some seven months. It was in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918 that a temporary armistice went into effect between the allied nations and Germany.

It is worth noting that the vitory of freedom over oppression was on at the 11th hour. For me, this emphasizes the elements of urgency and delay, hope and despair, promise and disappointment that accompany all of our efforts toward peace.

It fills me with renewed conviction that even in the current war in Iraq, there could be an 11th hour victory over an oppressive regime, and renewed hope for the people of Iraq.

I want to believe this even though personlly I have never been able to find a way to justify war. Maybe because I am not willing to offer up my own sons, I would not be able to ask that of anyone else. None of the logical reasons for military engagement I have heard can sway my convictions that war is not the answer.

Nonetheless, we are at war. As I sit at my computer in the late sun of an Indian Summer afternoon, women and men with families back home are risking their lives to make the world a safer place. Regardless of how I feel about war, I also feel a need to respect the sacrifice of these men and women, defend their honor and remind myself of the debt I owe them.

World War I was not the war to end all wars, as it was said to be. Who knows if that day will ever come? It is enough to know that we believe in the need for freedom. We believe we will all be better off if sons and daughters around the world have the means to live responsible, upright lives.

Veteran's Day is about remembering that in a dusty camp somewhere near Baghdad someone who is tierd and sweaty and living in fear -- someone no older than michael is now -- is there so this country, and others, can once again be free of fear, and all people can live with self respect.

Freedom comes at a high cost, deserving of appreciation. But this Veteran's Day, many consientious Americans of good heart are torn between desiring to support our troops in the field, hoping for the emergence of a free Iraq, and wanting to end the war that is dragging this country down.

Without forgetting the sacrifices that have been made and the great gift that freedom is, many Americans are outraged at the continuing loss of lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained. We have now passed the 2,000 mark of U.S. Military deaths, with more than 15,000 wounded, and 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq.

How much longer will we linger there?

In honor of the freedom we value, and the men and women who made it possible, it is time to bring our troops home. In many ways, we are again at the 11th hour. We have the opportunity to push the balance in this country toward hope or despair, promise or disappointment. We can celebrate Veteran's Day 2005 by taking an honest look at our continued involvement in Iraq. Flawed logic and half-truths are eroding domestic peace, and placing the freedoms we value most at risk.