I've been dealing with the usual stress of the holidays, worrying about how my poorly insulated pipes will fare during another cold spell and complaining about having to shuttle back and forth between parents, in-laws, grandparents, divorced parents and their families, etc. I didn't think I was acting like a spoiled child until I read about these families of soldiers killed in Iraq, spending their first of many Christmases without their loved ones:
Marianna Winchester, whose 25-year-old son died in September, eight days into his second tour of duty in Iraq, hung his Christmas stocking from the mantel, just below his baby pictures, just above the poster of him as an offensive lineman at the United States Naval Academy. Sitting on the couch, surrounded by ceramic snowmen that her son made as a child, she repeated what she said when a friend telephoned and asked how she was.
"Fine until you called," Mrs. Winchester said.
Jeanin Urbina, 17, the sister of a 29-year-old National Guardsman who was killed outside Baghdad on Nov. 29, described what this first Christmas without her brother was like. "Really there are a million different ways to say it: Christmas will never be the same," she said. "We don't really want to talk. We just want to start healing."
This saddens and sickens me. How many more people will have to die in a senseless war? A CNN military analyst said that things may be far different in Iraq a year from now, that things are likely to improve. And that may be. Perhaps 50 years from now we will realize that for all the criticism hurled at him, George W. Bush did the right thing. Yet I can't escape the conclusion that none of this had to happen. We owe it to the brave men and women who are willing to make the sacrifices the majority of us are not that those sacrifices will not be in vain. Time will tell if we have fulfilled that obligation.