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2,000 Heros

By Amy Branham, Gold Star Mother

There is pain in my soul this morning as I sit at this keyboard. It is an all-encompassing feeling that reverberates through my whole body. This is a pain that I cannot ignore and will not go away.

Sometime this week, maybe even today, the war in Iraq will claim the 2000th life of an American soldier killed in the line of duty. Let me repeat that last sentence in a more humanistic way: 2000 of America’s sons and daughters have died in Iraq in the war. 2000 warriors have died, have been brought home in flag-draped caskets that most of this country will never see. 2000 families have had their lives forever changed and their hearts forever broken. 2000 mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives either have or will bury their hearts when they bury their hero.

No matter what the politics are of each person in this country, whether we agree with George Bush, et al., or are a peacekeeper, we must recognize that these warriors gave their all for our country. Many believed they were fighting for freedom and democracy because that’s what their Commander in Chief told them. That is what their leaders told them. They gave their lives willingly for their country and we must honor their sacrifice.

In a day and a time when death and war is sanitized by the media and our government, we must press on and make them understand that death and war has a human face and a human cost. Our warriors, the sons and daughters of America, are not faceless numbers and statistics. Our heroes are not expendable. Their lives have meaning, their memories are worth keeping alive. Their tragic deaths must be remembered.

Today I honor and I remember my only son, Sgt. Jeremy Russell Smith, who died at the age of 22 on February 13, 2004. Jeremy was a student at ITT when he was called to serve his country full time. By now he would have been finished with his education and would be working with his second love, computers. In my home I have two computers that Jeremy built himself from the ground up. Jeremy’s first love was the Army where he learned the meaning of the words Honor, Duty and Country. I will forever miss Jeremy’s goofy smile that he tried to hide. Never again will I hear Jeremy’s voice as he calls out "Hello, Mother!" as he walks into the room. Only in my dreams will I ever touch his face again. My son will never marry and he will never have children of his own for me to spoil rotten.

Cindy Sheehan tells me what she misses about her son, Casey, "I miss CASEY. I miss when he would call me from Ft. Hood and say "Hi, Mom". I miss going to the movies with him. I miss his steady presence on the earth. I miss my big boy, my best friend."

From Jane Bright whose son, Evan, died in this ugly war: "Evan was a future leader, a loving and giving son, husband, brother, nephew and grandson. He was one of the best and the brightest. He was a classical pianist, a gifted student, and one of the sweetest men I have ever known. I am blessed to have him as my son. He will always be with us, in our hearts, guiding us through difficult times as he did the soldiers who looked up to him. We don’t know why he had to die for Bush’s lies. As Cindy says, "for what noble cause did our children die?"

Please, do not let our heroes become faceless, expendable statistics in the history books. We must remember them, honor them, respect them. For those of us who loved them with every fiber of our being, do not let their sacrifice be for nothing. The citizens of our country owe them that. The leaders of our country who sent them to die in a foreign country, far away from those they loved, owe them that.

Amy Branham
Houston, TX
Mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith
Nov. 1981 - Feb. 2004


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Let's get out of here......

Well, the US is poised for two new hurricanes. No..... not Wilma and Alpha. The potentially far more potent "Fitzgerald" is predicted to come ashore in Washington, D.C. as early as this Wednesday. Expected landfall is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House. All the talk about Plame, Wilson, Novak, and Miller suddenly switched this past week to Libby, Rove, Cheney, and even Bush. While the speculation has swirled about who would be indicted for what, the War in Iraq is the real story here. The larger question is how did the lies concocted among all these players find their way into the fraud that became the case Bush made for the war. It's serious, maybe even treasonous. Whether indictments or convictions are brought or succeed is really immaterial. The American public is now discussing the War in Iraq as not only a blundering disaster leaving thousands of lives, Iraqi and American alike, in its wake.......but also as a travesty, indeed a crime.

The second hurricane is barreling it's way into America's "heart" land. That is 2000, not a named storm (although it will have a name), but a number marking another milestone in the Iraq War, the death of the 2000th soldier. As the millenium held us in its thrall of anticipation of a new beginning, this 2000 holds us in dread of another bitter ending. With an average of two lives lost forever each day, and the toll standing as I write on Sunday at 1996, that terrible goal will be reality by the time readers see this ink. Cindy Sheehan's plans to go to see George again at the People's House will have made news, and peace vigils planned in cities around the nation will have left candle light's waxy residue on cement, along with tears, broken hearts, and frustration. The internet video, "What does 2000 look like", shows a blink by blink look at what 2000 faces of lost soldiers look like, moving through your sight so fast that they become a blur, and ending long minutes later with the statement "you've just seen 500. In order to understand 2000, you would have to watch this video three more times". Everyone should see it. George Bush should see it. Many families have created websites in memorial to their fallen loved ones lost in Iraq, including the family of Lt. Ken Ballard. The photos of Ken as a child and then as a soldier make you wish you could know him. He was a hero. He is dead. The website invites comments from people who have visited it. 11,000 people have written their heart-felt thanks and sympathy.

When George Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003, the death toll stood at 139. Obviously the war has escalated since then. The death throes of the insurgency have become another Cheney lie, and a nightmare of reality. Cold statistics show that of those lost in Iraq, 49% are Army soldiers, 25% Marines, and 15% Army National Guard. Over 1/2 are from only10 states: California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Michigan, and Virginia. 80% were Staff Sargents or below. 28% were killed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's), including 40 in August, a record, and 35 so far in October. Despite Bush and Blair declaring success after success in the face of failure after failure, the UK Ministry of Defense commissioned a poll, reported in this Sunday Telegraph, which lays bare the collapse of the "hearts and minds" policy they said was essential for victory. 45% of Iraqis support attacks against coalition troops, 65% in the British occupied sectors. Less than 1% think that US/UK military involvement is helping improve security in their country. 82% are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and 67% feel less secure because of the occupation. Their personal lives don't get favorable marks either. 71% rarely get safe drinking water. 47% never have enough electricity. 70% say their sewage system rarely works. Iraqis have waited day after day, already over a week, to finally learn their election results. So far, fraud has been ruled out...... one can't help but wonder if by the same methods used in Ohio in 2004.

Distraction and diversion seem to be favorite tactics of the Bush administration. In late December Gary Berntsen, the CIA field commander at Tora Bora, will say in his book, which the CIA has tried to keep from publication for over two years, that he and other U.S. commanders had definitive intelligence that Osama bin Laden was there. He had been tracked, and could have been caught. It would appear that bin Laden wasn't the goal, that Saddam was. The war shifted to Iraq, the original plan anyway, and bin Laden slipped out of grasp. Bush didn't finish one war before he began another. Now, we have a $25,000,000 bounty on al-Zakari, who started as a local terrorist based in Jordan, fomenting insurgency in Iraq. Since we launched these twin wars against terrorism, Al Queda has spread to 40 countries, with Iraq now its epicenter. These two murderous thugs must be smiling at their success at our expense. It seems now that Syria may become our next household name. Bush and Blair are pushing a UN investigation into the killing of Lebanese leader, Hariri, and coalition troops are plying and penetrating the Syria/Iraq border searching for insurgents, all reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war. Sec. of State Rice has launched unspecific but aggressive threats against Syria, while British Foreign Secretary Straw has pointed out "false testimony being given by senior people" in Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's regime. Hmmmmmm.......................

While America squares off this week with these two hurricanes, one carrying winds of truth, the other of death, the war machine drones on and on, 2000 and counting. While death and failure are tolled in numbers, so is the hope and demand for peace as it spreads across America. We must bring stronger, louder voices forward to demand both truth and peace. While we are so often distracted by one scandal or another or incompetence we can't ignore, we must keep focused. We either get the leadership we insist on.......or deserve. If we don't demand peace, we're sure to get war and more war.

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