Three young soldiers brought the war in Iraq powerfully home to Minnesota Tuesday. It took their deaths and the tears of their widows, fathers and mothers to do it. No longer was the war an abstraction confined to newspapers, radio and television. It became a little bit more real, as, for most, it will remain for a few days, until the pending sale of the Vikings, the debate over Social Security or the pending budget cuts in St. Paul reclaims the spotlight.
Don't let that happen. It takes some imagination in these days of a volunteer military, but please fight the impulse to let the war fade again. There are thousands upon thousands of good reasons for making the effort. They are the dead, the wounded and the many still on duty in Iraq.
Americans need to know, really know in a bottom-of-the-gut sort of way, the price of war. We can't have it sanitized for us. We can't look away.
We need to recognize that these young, brave, dutiful men are really dead. They are gone. This is not a movie.
We need to know that these young widows, having gone through the wrenching goodbyes at deployment, the heartbreak and fears of separation, now confront their worst nightmare come to life. They don't get to fast forward or rewind. Their lives have been unalterably changed. They must live the pain every day and hope that, one day, it will go away. It never will, not completely.
We need to know that the parents of these three young men, like thousands of other American parents caught in the whirlwind of this controversial war, must confront the most painful task any parent could be asked to face: burying their offspring, whom they had raised with so much effort and toil.
Parents are not meant to bury their children. It's bad enough that so many young people are claimed by disease and accident. War's claim is the worst, perhaps, because parents must live with the knowledge that it is a possibility, but don't know when or where it will happen. When it does, there are no opportunities for farewell. It is a wound they will carry until death claims them too.
War, any war, is such an obscenity, and we must remember that. Those who have fought do not forget, because war is about horrific burns and mangled bodies. It's about blood released to soak the earth. It's about bits of bodies collected so there will be something to send home. Confronting that reality is part of what we owe those we send, in the words of that quaint phrase, "into harm's way."
War is no accident. It is willed into existence, and sometimes it must be so. But never, ever casually. It hurts too many too much for too long. Tuesday the hurt descended on all those folk who loved three young, decent men from Minnesota. We grieve with them. We keenly regret the loss they have suffered. With Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, who is also a minister and brigadier general in the National Guard, we ask, and will keep asking: Is this war worth the price?
© 2005 Star Tribune