Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I am not American.
But the story coming out from the mouth of an American soldier who talks about what the number 4000 means to him as a soldier serving in Iraq in terms of its significant meaning to measure the cost of war made me feel the pain that any American would feel in the face of this war.

Reading this news account hit me the way I have never been hit before by any grim story about wars and battles fought all over the world. Do we really know what is inside a soldier's heart as he marches with his troop or as he carries out his commanding officer's order to set out and defend a post? Can we really empathize with each one of them enough and say we feel for them for being exposed to the possibility of being killed the whole duration of their service?

The number of American soldiers' lives claimed by the war in Iraq has reached the 4000th mark. Collectively, it means 4000 individual brothers in Shakespeare's notion of soldiers as a "band of brothers", but individually, 4000 represents a million smaller number of comrades, classmates, or friends of soldiers belonging to individual troops. It means a smaller number for each of the one million service members who have fought this war. It hits me sad and cold that part of a normal routine for an American soldier serving in Iraq is picking up a week-old copy of Stars and Stripes, the US military newspaper, to check the section that lists the number of the fallen to see if the list includes a familiar name. It grips my heart with sadness as the image of a soldier is formed in my head holding a copy of the paper. How much longer before this soldier who reads the paper today becomes a casualty himself in the future? How scary and hair-raising is it to be there in that actual spot asking yourself "am I going to survive this war?"

IN my mind, I used to think that a soldier undergoes training to grow a gut of steel and a cold heart to withstand the images of dead bodies, enemies and comrades alike, strewn in a vast expanse of the battlefield. The gut of steel is for the soldier to survive the task of picking up the bodies of dead comrades; the cold heart is for him not to break apart and burst in uncontrollable sobs upon knowing who among his brothers joined the list of casualties. But that is superficial~ a mask that covers the layers underneath that shows he is still human.

As individuals, we cry for many different reasons. A lost love, a broken life, a stalled opportunity to live a better life, wrong choices made, self-inflicted pain, and what not. There maybe a strong, compelling personal reason for me to cry today, but I will shed tears for the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will cry with them as they mourn the death of comrades and friends. I will cry with the families of the soldiers who lost brothers, nephews, uncles, cousins, or husbands in this cruel war.

I will cry.
Even though I am not American.

No comments:

Post a Comment