For days I have been unable to switch on the television without hearing someone talking about the horrible crash that took the life of Actor, Paul Walker. There have been interviews, news footage, thousands, maybe even millions of people in mourning over this man known the world over for his role in ” The Fast and the Furious” series of films. To be honest, I had never heard of him before his death. I have never been interested enough to watch any of those movies.
More recently the loss of the former president of South Africa, and anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nelson Mandela has flooded the newspapers, television, and internet. People all over the world have been shown celebrating his life, and mourning his passing. It has been an emotional time to say the least, and I have no complaint about all the media coverage generated by this loss. Of course I know who Nelson Mandela was, and I agree with the outpouring of emotion over his death.
I am not belittling these losses felt so deeply by so many, nor am I comparing the loss of Walker to the loss of Mandela, but it does raise a question for me. How many of us can name even one of the most recent casualties in Afghanistan or Iraq? I couldn’t. Not without looking it up on the internet, and I feel most of my readers could not either. Am I the only one who finds this somewhat shameful?
We have thousands of men and women fighting for freedoms we so often take for granted in America. Every day these soldiers are away from their families, losing life and limb for this great nation, and yet, we can’t even give them five minutes on the nightly news? We give hours and days of our media attention to the loss of a great actor, politician, world leader, and a myriad of other less news worthy topics, some of which I can only refer to as “junk news”. Why don’t we ever mention the names of those lost fighting for us? Why don’t we see their faces on the news or hear accounts of their bravery, the families they left behind, or how they died in some battle, in a country thousands of miles from home?
Okay, we might get a two-minute mention on the evening news stating that, “… 14 U.S. troops were killed in a roadside attack in Afghanistan today, when their patrol was hit by an IED…”, but we don’t often hear much more. We don’t hear their names, we don’t see their faces, we don’t see the young widow’s or the mother’s face when a military officer shows up at their door to deliver the news of this horrible loss. I understand why the cameras wouldn’t be present at this incredibly private and devastating moment in a military family’s life, but I do think we need a reminder of this reality now and then. I understand not reporting their names and details of death on the day that they occur, but shouldn’t there be a weekly or even monthly report that pays homage to these true heroes?
We need to stop thinking of these men and women as mere numbers and statistics, and remember that these are not “troops”, they are human beings, they are the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters of real people suffering great loss. They deserve to be recognized, they deserve a name and a face. The loss of these brave men and women deserves more air time than the loss of any actor, or other famous person, because without the freedom that they are fighting and dying for every single day, we would not be able to sit in our comfortable homes mourning for anyone else.
On a last note. I want to pay homage here and now.
The most recent I could find:
In Honor of
- Sgt. 1st Class Forrest W. Robertson
- Hometown: Westmoreland, Kansas
- Branch: Army
- Unit: 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Fort Stewart, Ga.
- Nov 3rd, 2013: Died in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.
I was unable to post his photo for copyright reasons, but here is the link to the site where you can read about him and many others…and where you can put a face, a human face, to the numbers.