As I begin this post, it is important in these turbulent times for readers to understand that I am not using it to make a political statement. Got it? Okay.
The United States has been at war for fifteen years in Afghanistan and Iraq; only the Vietnam War, twenty years in duration, lasted longer. For reasons I cannot explain, when the U.S. casualty count reached the 2,000 mark in October 2005 I decided to put a sign on the front yard to tally the growing number of brave American servicewomen and servicemen whose lives were lost in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I believed my small sign was innocuous enough not to attract negative attention. However, not long after it was installed something happened that showed it not to be the case. One morning the sign was gone. Not knocked down by someone that misunderstood its purpose, just taken by person or persons unknown. This got my dander up, as the sign said nothing about the responsibility for, nor the conduct of, the two conflicts in which we were involved.
I wasn’t about to take the matter lying down. I hurriedly constructed a placard for the yard stating why I’d made the sign, explaining that, if it wasn’t returned, I would just put another one in its place. I am thankful that, a couple days later, the original sign was thrown onto the front porch.
People pass by the sign every day. Most don’t seem to notice it, although once I saw an older gentleman stop before it, come to attention and snap off a military salute. That incident crystallizes my rationale for putting up the sign in the first place: showing respect for the fallen.
The fine Canadian rocker Bruce Cockburn (CO-burn) penned a song that touches on this topic. In 2009 Bruce visited his older brother in Afghanistan, where he was doing a hitch as a surgeon with the Canadian Forces. Bruce, having witnessed the solemn ceremony wherein the dead are transported to the cargo aircraft that will repatriate them, composed “Each One Lost.” I commend the tune to you. (It is a cut on the 2011 album “Small Source of Comfort.”) The refrain will suffice to bring this post to a close:
“Each one lost
is everyone’s loss you see
each one lost is a vital part of you and me.”