Wednesday, August 04, 2004
( 10:14 AM )
Oregon Perfects the Military Funeral
Another young Oregonian was killed in Iraq last week. The Oregonian, perhaps tired of simply reporting these ongoing deaths that are striking at the heart of our communities, have done an article today on the funerals themselves.
Within the volunteer Oregon Army National Guard is a core of "double volunteers," as they call themselves: men and women who have stepped forward and met the exacting standards of the state's adjutant general's select honor guard. Those 20 or so soldiers represent the Guard at parades, fairs, festivals and -- with increasing regularity -- at soldiers' funerals.
Once those were mostly the funerals of veterans, old soldiers, but as the war in Iraq continues, those services are for their comrades-in-arms, four so far and another one to come. The soldiers killed in Iraq are younger, with more life unspent -- mirrored in the soldiers wearing slippery white cotton gloves who carry, in 15-inch lockstep, the heavy coffins.
Sometimes the men and women are strangers, but often they've met, trained together, heard one another's names. Maybe fought together.
Precisely, professionally, they bear the coffin, fold the U.S. flag and give it to the bereaved with these words: "As a representative of the United States Army it is my high privilege to present to you this flag. . . ."
Since the media doesn't seem concerned any longer (the "handover of power" seems to have convinced them that we are no longer present and being killed in Iraq?), here is an update. As of today, 920 US soldiers have been killed. EIGHT have been killed this month - and it's only the 4th day of the month. The thousands of injuries, sometimes deadly injuries, often maimings for life, continue to mount.
What was that again about steady leadership?