The Flag Draped Coffin: The Final Journey

The television program showed the actors sitting on the web seating with a flag draped coffin loaded in the center of the Air Force cargo transport. It’s a program that I enjoy watching but this image haunted me. The program showed the soldier being killed trying to help another soldier in Afghanistan. He died for our values whether we believed in where he was or not. The feeling inside me was quite emotional. Although I served in the Army that wasn’t the source. That wasn’t at the core of the feeling. At the same time the Paris and San Bernadino incidents were fresh in my mind. The Presential candidates debates had just happened. The networks had panels and “experts” providing an abundance of opinions. The President’s rating is low apparently because people either think our government isn’t doing enough or simply don’t know what is being done to protect us. Add to this the barrage of politically motivated speeches which tell us we are not safe and not enough is being done to prevent a possible terrorist attack. Our efforts to eliminate Isis are too weak and too little we are told. Our nation is weak and our leaders are lost. This is disgraceful and in an earlier time as a minimum would have been labeled unpatriotic or even disloyal. We have a Congress that writes letters to the leaders of countries hostile to us saying not to rely on the word or action of our President. The same Congress proposed legislation that would reject a potential climate agreement that was still being negotiated by world leaders.

I had a college professor years ago commenting on the various student protests during the 1960’s. His comment was that a person has the right to protest some action but also has the responsibility to provide an alternative. It is not enough to tell us our leaders are not protecting us. We must be told what should be done differently to make us safer. The current political rants more appropriately belong as barroom conversation not coming out of the mouths of people who say they should be president or even journalists who do not question or challenge statemants made for that matter by these candidates or “experts.”

Many flag draped coffins have been loaded onto similar aircraft to be brought home over the years. In recent times we have tended to try to conceal that event by precluding the media from showing it. I originally thought this was simply a political decision. Now I know it was, but why do we accept it? The nation should know how often it happens. After all these truly are American heroes who gave their lives for what we claim to believe. These are everyday American sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends. Their death isn’t just the loss of a valiant American but the cause for pain and hurt to lots of people. I once had the honor of actually meeting and talking with a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. His comment was that the real heroes were those who returned home for their final journey. I went home after meeting him and looked up his bio on the Internet. There are many heroes and he certainly is one. Reading it brought me to tears. I thank God for people like him and I know that their are many others in our country.

The air waves and media generally are flooded with those who never served or found a relatively safe way to serve. These are too often those who “talk tough.” Regardless where are our leaders who understand the sacrifice of service and the potential anguish it causes in families. If you can not tell us what you would do, what your alternative is, then you are not a leader and I will not support you. There was a time when we Americans all exhibited that attitude. Now we seem to expect so much less and demand so little of our leaders and those aspiring to leadership posiions. If you are willing to send my son or daughter to war then you had better be willing to serve yourself. The current crop of political candidates doesn’t hold that belief but rather the contrary view; my children can go but not their’s. As a final note under the current circumstances there is no battle in the Middle East that is worth the life of any American. War is described as diplomacy by another means. The battlefield alters the players positions so that the diplomats can return to the negotiating table. Diplomacy should be the path we pursue without the saber rattling and loss of life.

Heroes become such when called upon to act. Likewise leaders are people who rise up to lead in a time of need. This is such time of need but where are our leaders?



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