Monday, January 03, 2005

We need our Warriors

Five days before Christmas, 88-year-old Clarence Evans gave his grandson the gift of his dreams. And 21-year-old Giles Evans of Nashville donned the World War II flight jacket — that his grandfather wore as a B-24 squadron commander — as if he had been given the world. And in a real way, he had. Freedom requires warriors. They are the last defense of our liberties and my ability as a journalist to pursue my profession. They are sent far away to confront tyranny and genocide, lest we repeat history and allow these cancers to spread over the globe. Yet too often, this nation and my profession are predisposed to treat these warriors as a threat — to civilian authority, to the Constitution, to peace on Earth, good will to men. If you have ever spent an extended time around these men and women, you’d know they desire nothing more than to complete their mission and come home to their families, have children, go to soccer games and school plays and grow old with their spouses. No one wants peace more than the warrior because heroes such as Clarence Evans of Fayetteville, Tenn., have seen the consequences of its absence. They shudder at praise for risking their lives. To them, freedom’s true heroes are those who did not return to grow old. They paid the ultimate price; they deserve the laurels. And so Evans’ gift to his grandson, Giles, did not come easy. The life of a warrior — as represented in that flight jacket — is difficult. And Giles, a third-year cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, will soon be an Army aviator and a West Point grad like his grandfather. Evans initially tried to discourage his grandson. ‘’Granddad was telling me all about the bad things’’ concerning academy life, Giles said. ‘’He wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing it for prestige or glory. ‘’I’ve given a lot of thought about it, after Sept. 11 to now. If there is something out there to defend against, if there is going to be a fight, I want to be there.’’ Thursday night in Nashville, another son of Fayetteville handed over the warrior mantle to more Tennessee academy cadets. The occasion was the Tennessee All Academy/ROTC ball. It is put on by the parents of Tennessee youth who, instead of the traditional college life, choose to become military officers and leaders. ‘’It is gratifying for an old sailor to cast his tired eyes across this hall to see these young people in training to take my place,’’ said retired Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, a Tennessee native. ‘’I am proud to be a Cold War warrior. We did not know when it would end, but our nation paid the price. Today’s struggle may be more dangerous. This generation has taken up the banner and carried it forward. This generation will see it through. More people will learn to live in a free society.’’ For warriors and their families, however, living in a free society can demand additional sacrifice. Chely Wright’s hit song, The Bumper of My SUV, was about the angry reaction she received in Nashville because of a Marine Corps sticker on her vehicle supporting her brother, a Marine. She told CNN that an agitated woman began honking, swerving and flicking her lights: ‘’I look in the rear view, and she’s flipping me the bird, hard.’’ When the woman pulled her vehicle up, she unloaded: ‘’Your war is wrong. You’re a baby killer.’’ Such an opinion should not be unexpected. How would you expect people to feel if what you did for a living was most readily represented back home in pictures of the abuse at Abu Ghraib, or the latest explosion in Iraq? And you’d probably want to find another job. But warriors won’t. They’ve taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and this nation. They do it facing all kinds of risk. Reuters reported last week that ‘’six Navy SEAL special operations commandos and the wives of two of them sued The Associated Press and one of its reporters for publishing photos taken from a Web site that appeared to show the SEALs abusing prisoners in Iraq. The suit, filed in San Diego Superior Court, said the pictures did not depict abuse and instead put the lives of the soldiers at risk by exposing their faces to the world.’’ SEALs are a covert force. Their identities and faces are concealed so they can go into the most dangerous places. Expose those faces, and they become a prime target for terrorists. Along with their families. The AP distributed the photos around the world. ‘’We believe that none of the claims have any solid basis in the law as we understand it,’’ said Dave Tomlin, the AP’s assistant general counsel. It’s not about the law. It’s about common decency. National Public Radio reported: ‘’The amateur snapshots show SEALs sitting on hooded and handcuffed Iraqis. Another picture shows a SEAL using a flashlight mounted on his pistol to illuminate the captured man’s face for a photo. The Navy maintains these are acceptable procedures for commandos as part of intelligence gathering.’’ Jim Houston, attorney for the SEALs and their families, told NPR: ‘’These guys are back in Iraq. Their faces are all over Al-Jazeera (the Arab broadcasting company). They’re on billboards in Cuba accusing them of being fascists and Nazis. There are photographs on Web sites where they’ve pulled out the digital faces that say, ‘Remember these faces.’ ‘’ Being a warrior in America is a difficult life to pursue. Without these warriors, however, there would be no America. Or a free world. Clarence Evans preserved a free world by taking the four B-24 bomber squadrons under his command forward — without fighter or full bomber wing support — and destroyed a Messerschmitt aircraft plant Feb. 24, 1943. Then, he kept his doomed plane straight so his crew could bail out. He was shot twice in the legs and was a POW for 18 months. Giles Evans will soon preserve our freedoms against terror behind a jet or helicopter. As Mark Gill — the father of West Point Plebe Marcus Gill — prayed at Thursday’s event: ‘’God bless the warrior who defends those who are unable to defend themselves.’’

No comments: