TERRE HAUTE —
I hope many of you read Parade Magazine (the one in the Sunday Tribune-Star) about the two young men buried side by side at Arlington National Cemetery. They were Travis Manion and Brendan Looney. They became fast friends in the same class at the United States Naval Academy. They received good grades and were strong athletically. They spent a great amount of time picking on each other to be better.
Manion chose to become an officer in the Marine Corps, as his father did before him. He became a leader in combat with the Marines. Looney chose the U.S. Navy and shortly after graduation joined the Navy Seals. Both men would die in combat.
Manion’s family had him interred in a cemetery in his home town in Pennsylvania, but it was his wife who decided, with the help of his parents, that he should be buried next to his best friend, Looney, at Arlington.
The story alone was most touching and one that was to bring tears to many eyes.
As I read this, it brought me up to a quick start. How many times, how many years, and how many smart, strong, young Americans are going to die in far-off lands whose sacrifice and heroism will probably, in the long run, not make a single change in the country where they died?
Veterans were honored Memorial Day all over America as they have been for many years. It’s truly remarkable how a single story like this can rise above the patriotic fervor and clamor on Memorial Day and still touch our hearts.
How long are we going to bury young men, and now young women, in these wars? In my lifetime there was World War II. I don’t believe there should be any doubt of its need to have happened. Hitler’s forces and the Japanese army did terrible things and the world is a much better place because we defeated them in combat in WWII.
But, five years after this war, we were in combat again in Korea … five years after millions had died. Then, as the Korean War ceased, (no peace, but an armistice), another war broke out in what all of us knew then as French Indo-China. Is our world different? Is our world better because we lost 50,000 men in Vietnam? Under God’s great graces, who in blazes said we should be the policeman of the world?
Does anyone believe Iraq will be a better place because Saddam Hussein is gone? Or will it only change a small amount? Has the Taliban disappeared in Afghanistan? In the smoke of battle, ambush and treachery, the Taliban is still there and, even though we have helped many in Afghanistan, have we altered the course of their history? I think not.
I salute those brave young men who have gone off to lands they have never heard of to fight in our country’s causes, but from Korea to Afghanistan, how much will it change?
I hope I live long enough to celebrate a Memorial Day where we have not buried a single Army, Navy or Marine Corps person after being killed in combat.
There are so many heroes. They bloom like dandelions on a green lawn in every war we fight, but the cover of Parade Magazine brought home to this ex-Airman the total futility of all the wars we have mentioned and a sincere prayer that we quit killing our young people.
An old man’s heart-felt salute to Lt. Travis Manion, USMC, and Lt. Brendan Looney, US Navy, for reminding us of the sacrifices heroes make and the prayer we have for fewer and fewer heroes we have to bury in the future.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.