The Best Defense

Comment of the day: A father discusses the marker for his son in the backyard

From "Gold Star Father":

The government marker (VA supplied) is (illegally) in my backyard bolted to a flat stone that I found and it lies under a Weeping Willow that friends of my wife gave to her. I make it a point to look at it nearly daily, christen it with splatterings of whatever cocktail I may have in hand, and have a conversation with my son. The marker is mine, its for me. My son's ashes were returned to the sea. The marker is my place to go. It's illegal that I have it, but I know/knew ways to make it happen to be in my possession. I defy the VA cemetery police to come and get it. There will be blood if they show up in my driveway.


The Best Defense

Do we dishonor the dead with 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' on their tombstones?

By Charles Krohn

Best Defense department of second thoughts

Is it an honor or a cruel joke to read "Operation Iraqi Freedom" on the headstone of a fallen soldier?

Given the irony of OIF in a historic context, the question is not irreverent, but it is relevant. This wouldn't be true, of course, if our invasion had yielded results intended and predicted, however imperfectly.

As an old soldier who has carried one too many body bags out of the battlefield, I feel a great kinship with the next of kin of the fallen. Few memories hold greater pain.

I wouldn't even ask this question if I didn't wonder if some in the Gold Star community weren't also asking it, even to themselves. And if any read this, please accept my reverence for you and the deceased. I know your loved one answered the call of the nation, understanding great risk was necessary to protect our country and help spread freedom among the oppressed. What could be more noble?

Is it not just as honorable now to recognize the prospect of freedom in Iraq as originally postulated is remote? As others have written, there is still great confusion about who will lead Iraq. The only thing most agree upon is that Iran, once held in check by Iraq, is now spreading its virulent reach deeper into the region, with a nuclear threat just around the corner.

Simply stated, the inspiration for Operation Iraqi Freedom was a dream. Does it honor or dishonor those who fell to perpetuate this myth on their headstones?

Should the matter be swept under the rug as an incidental slip of history or should next-of-kin have the option of a new headstone, marking sacrifice without promoting an idea whose time has passed?

Charles A. Krohn is the author of The Lost Battalion of Tet. Now chilling in Panama City Beach, Florida, he served in Iraq in 2003-2004 as public affairs adviser to the director of the Infrastructure Reconstruction Program, and later as public affairs officer for the American Battle Monuments Commission.