April 09, 2005

The Ignored Casualties of War

A remembrance of the casualties almost never noted [link no longer working]:
The Wasatch Mountains of Utah are about as far away from a war zone as you can get. In the waning days of last summer, when the wildflowers were not yet gone, a casual hike turned into a horrible reminder.

Seeing a business acquaintance along the trail was a surprise. Usually, I see him behind a customer service counter. But I recognized him with his backpack passing on the trail.

He reminded me of his name. I asked how he was doing. Not so well, he said.

The trail we were on was a place he used to bring his favorite nephew. The uncle had come up to the tall pines, the stands of aspen and the unrestricted views of the peaks to remember. And to try to forget.

His nephew had enlisted in the Army. He and a buddy from a suburban Midwestern city had been to Iraq and back.

"We're not getting the whole story," the uncle told me as we stood in a sun-drenched meadow. His nephew had recounted the horrors of war to his uncle. He had told his uncle that they shot at anything that moved. He had bared his tormented soul to someone he trusted, someone who loved him, someone who had brought him to these mountains for peace and solitude and new experiences.


One summer night, the two Iraq war veterans drank too much. The buddy had a new sports car, a "welcome home" gift from his father. These two young veterans sped down a highway careening and crashing the new sports car. Both died.

Their names were not seen on any national TV news program listing those who gave the ultimate price. Their names will not appear on any war memorial of those killed in the Iraq war. But their lives were cut short by the horrors of war just as though they had been targeted by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.