And the President slipped the blue bracelet with the name of her dead husband on his wrist and then went on TV to address 25 million people.
Those who believe George Bush has no guts, should read this chronicle of his meeting with the families of soldiers who have died in Iraq. How do you console the inconsolable? How do you comfort the totally bereft? How can you look people in the eye who have lost so much, knowing in your heart of hearts that somewhere in those tortured eyes is an accusation?
“I know people are pushing you, but please don’t pull the guys out of Iraq too soon,’ ” said Crystal Owen, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Mike Owen, was killed in Iraq last year.
“Don’t let my husband—and 1,700-plus other deaths—be in vain,” she added during a private meeting with Mr. Bush at the North Carolina base. “They were over there, fighting for a democratic nation, and I hope you’ll keep our service members over there until the mission can be accomplished.”
It’s because of people like Mrs. Owen that the President is able to face those whose loved ones gave that “last full measure of devotion.” Yes, we’ve seen family members who have been understandably bitter toward the President, who lash out in their anger and their pain at the man whose orders sent their beloved into harms way. We’ve even had word that these confrontations take place during the little gatherings at military bases the President has with the relatives of the deceased before he goes ahead and speaks to the troops. What can you say to a loved one who holds you personally responsible for the death of their spouse or their child?
You can stand there and take it. You do it because history has reached out and tapped you on the shoulder and whispered in your ear a song you didn’t want to hear but is now too late to shut out. You’ve committed your country to a path, the first steps of which are being taken in a place where it seems all of the evil and hate that led to nearly 3,000 of your fellow countrymen being incinerated on a beautiful September morning is being concentrated and focused.
So much evil. So much hatred.
And the hatred is not confined to your enemies abroad. Demonstrating an unreasonableness bordering on clinical psychosis, your political foes portray you as an uncaring monster, a war lover, a liar, a schemer of Machiavellian proportions whose associations with shadowy, powerful men are the cause of all the nation’s problems. As their conspiracy theories get wilder and more fanciful and their rage grows at you and your supporters, it seems as if all the political furies in the world have been let loose to torment and afflict you.
And then Mrs. Owen slips the blue bracelet with the name of her husband on your wrist and you remember. You remember the other gatherings like this one, at other military bases across the country whose place names evoke the emotions and virtues of the heartland of America: Fort Stewart, Georgia, Fort Polk, Louisiana, Fort Lewis, Washington, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Fort Hood, Texas, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Camp Pendleton, California.
A river of tears has been cried at these gatherings. And surprisingly, you’ve found yourself awash in an ocean of love. It amazes you that they care deeply about your feelings, about your psyche. They look into your eyes and seek the comfort that only you can give them. And when they connect, their gratitude gives you the strength to go on.
It doesn’t surprise us that you get choked up when talking about these men and their families. The bond between a Commander in Chief and his soldiers is a special one, going back to the earliest civilizations that had armies. The bond is based on trust. You trust them to carry out orders. They trust you to ask them to die only when the cause is worth it. The fact that re-enlistment among Iraq veterans is so high says something about the trust the soldiers hold for you. And that trust extends to the families who, even when they disagree with you and your policies, honor the service of their beloved.
I wonder if you looked at the blue wrist band Mrs. Owen gave to you before you went before the cameras and spoke to 25 million of your fellow citizens. I wonder if you thought of her husbands sacrifice and repeated your vow that he and his fellows will not have died in vain.
For all the Mrs. Owens, I hope you can stay the course until the job is done.