Since the moment Secretary of State Robert Gates finished his heartfelt, tearful salute to a fallen U.S. Marine last Wednesday in Washington D.C., political pundits and prognosticators have argued over what exactly the rare emotional showing by a characteristically somber figurehead means for the future of the War in Iraq and Gates’ level of support for it.
The “prevailing wisdom” and sentiment from the likes of Newsweek’s Eleanor Clifton, and Huffingtonpost.com’s founder and editor Arianna Huffington (both recently on PBS' Mclaughlin Group) has been that Secretary Gates was sending a subtle message to the American people that he is sick of supporting what Clifton calls a, “bloody, un-winnable mess in Iraq.”
Hmm. Alright, I guess I can see how someone might get that idea from the Secretary's comments.
Huffington said that President Bush’s attempts to “white-wash and sterilize this war” by what she describes as “showing absolutely no emotion in five years” were no longer going to work because Gates had let the proverbial cat out of the bag. She added that it must be “hard-liners in the White House, like Dick Cheney” who are requiring a stiff upper-lip at the news and images of nearly 3,700 dead American soldiers in Iraq.
Now that just may have gone a little bit further than I care to agree with, Ms. Huffington.
“These soldiers are dying in vain and this administration doesn’t care,” Huffington compassionately exclaimed.
Wow! You lost me.
Equally as lost on nearly all the commentators who offered their misguided opinions was the underlying, and vastly more important question. What kind of man could bring the Secretary of Defense to tears during a public speech?
On May 10th, 2007 this country lost a hero and heaven gained a saint.
At 34 years old, Major Douglas A. Zembiec was one of the most respected and revered soldiers fighting in Iraq. When he was killed-in-action, it was in his fourth tour of duty as E Company’s commander, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. His nickname, emanating from an interview he had done with the Los Angeles Times in 2005 in which he described the determination and ferocity of his men, was the “Lion of Fallujah.”
Zembiec’s funeral was held in Annapolis, MD nine days after his untimely demise on the field of battle in Iraq. Over 1,000 people, including his adoring wife Pamela, came to remember the tragically short, yet undeniably full life of a real American patriot.
The recent context for Secretary Gates’ poignant homage to Major Zembiec was in speaking at a Marine “Tribute Banquet” where the crowd was comprised of soldiers past and present and their families. He was humbly attempting to express the gratitude so many of us wish we could offer directly to our fighting men and women.
Gates explained that he keeps a photo of Zembiec on his desk at the Pentagon to remind him of the very real sacrifice young Americans are making every day across the globe to procure our precious freedom.
“Don’t think for a minute that we (civilian commanders) do not mourn the loss of every single soldier,” Gates explained to the receptive audience. “I write letters to those kids’ families each night and pray for their strength. They aren’t just statistics on a website to me.”
The anti-war press and far-Left defeatists in Congress have done their best to see that Americans’ reaction to the daily reminder of U.S. causalities be expressed in one way, and one way only: “This was a mistake and we must surrender.”
Disheartening stories such as the debacle surrounding the friendly-fire death, and subsequent alleged “cover up” by the Army, of former NFL-star Pat Tillman are never accurately put into the context of a soldier who tragically, but heroically gave his or her life for their country.
“Bush lied, people died,” is generally all you can expect even from the most respected Liberal journalists and politicians.
But let us for a moment examine the all-too neglected thoughts of the most important character in this politically-charged play which is Zembiec himself.
What did the good Major think of the war? Where did his own allegiances lie? Was he prone to verbal fits of disgust toward his Commander-in-Chief and the mission for which he voluntarily enlisted to fight in? Did he regret enlisting? What motivated him to join in the first place?
Major Zembiec’s best friend, Eric. L Kapitulik, offered the eulogy back in May for his fallen comrade. Granted access to Zembiec’s personal journal and diary, Kapitulik read aloud excerpts from the hand-written entry entitled “Principles my father taught me” to further convey the type of human-being and American his best friend truly was.
“Be a man of principal. Fight for what you believe in. Keep your word. Live with integrity. Be brave. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Serve your country”
“Teach. Mentor. Give something back to society. Lead from the front. Conquer your fears. Be a good friend. Be humble and self-confident. Appreciate your friends and family. Be a leader and not a follower. Be valorous on the field of battle and take responsibility for your actions.”
(Describing his first time fighting insurgents in Iraq) “[It was] the greatest day of my life. I never felt so alive, so exhilarated, and so purposeful. There is nothing equal to combat, and there is no greater honor than to lead men into combat. Once you’ve dealt with life and death like that, it gives you a whole new perspective.”
There is much more, but you get the idea.
This was a man of conviction, of fortitude, and of bravery. He loved his family. He was loyal to his country. He was resolute in his actions.
In short, Major Douglas Zembiec epitomized the greatness we seem to currently believe exists only in summer movies about Comic Book superheroes.
No one had tricked Zembiec into joining the military as John Kerry (D-MA) accused last October. To contradict Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) own comments, no empty promise of fame, riches or glory had lured Zembiec unsuspectingly into combat’s harmful way. He was not even there for George Bush or Hillary Clinton.
It was personal responsibility, civic duty, and the desire to be apart of something bigger than himself that drove this man (and the hundreds of thousands like him) to take the fight to our enemies each and every day half-way around the world.
Of course most of us back here in the safety of these United States will never fully appreciate the strain our armed forces have had placed on their sturdy shoulders. How could we?
The problem as I see it entails a complacent, complaining citizenry and Press here in America that is more interested in expressing grossly under-informed opinions and emotional outbursts of pent-up frustration toward a war and a fight that they have done little to nothing to contribute to.
We should know enough to know we don’t know too much.
But where do we look for solace and an accurate assessment of the war? The extent of the blind bias against all-things-Bush is clearly exhibited in the swarm of mainstream media commentaries regarding the categorically misinterpreted Gates-on-Zembiec quotes from that Marine dinner last week. Anyone with an internet connection, a phone line, and the desire to get the whole story would have followed up on who this dead soldier that made the Secretary of Defense weep really was.
That inquiry would have resulted in, whichever pessimistic journalist had actually gone beyond reading Liberal talking points from Howard Dean, abandoning the story altogether for fear of rousing what little patriotism and good sense remains in Blue-State America.
Zembiec: “Never forget those who were killed. Never let rest those who killed them.”
Perhaps we should start listening to the people our journalists and reporters claim to know so much about, and we may just come to the stark realization that it’s really been about “us”, instead of “them”, all along.