Others have remarked before about the incongruity of our lives of wealth and comfort here in United States while men and women in our military struggle daily for survival in the Middle East.
We were reminded again last week just how little most of us have sacrificed as an East Valley family said farewell to a loved one who fell in Iraq. Sgt. Caleb Christopher, 25, of Chandler, was delivered to his final resting place with tears and flowers and the lilting dirge of bagpipes. His family was concerned about an immediate tragedy, but their thoughts carried a message that everyone needs to hear.
“You know soldiers are dying in Iraq,” said sister-in-law Jenny Christopher during the June 12 funeral service at the First United Methodist Church in Gilbert. “But somehow you don’t expect it to happen to someone in your family.”
Battles for the future of Iraq and Afghanistan no longer dominate our Web chats, our e-mail messages, our television screens or newspaper headlines. We know that our military troops are in harm’s way, but largely in an abstract sense. We have lost much of our personal connection to the death and the destruction. Few of us see the wounded and the permanently disabled who have given just as much as the comrades who have been killed.
Blame our inattention on the role of an all-volunteer military, which means every soldier like Christopher made an honest choice to risk his own life. Blame on it on the disciplined efforts of the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force that continue to keep the casualty count below any objective estimate. Or blame it on technological and medical advances that have allowed a far greater number of men and women to survive sniper fire, roadside bombs and rocket shells than in any previous war.
Whatever the reason, few in the military complain about our lack of focus. Most celebrate the idea that the U.S. armed forces are up to the task of keeping our country safe so the rest of us can keep our summer travel plans.
But we need to take a moment or two out of our recreational shopping or beachcombing or airport-hopping to remember those such as Caleb Christopher.
Spurred by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Christopher joined the Army in May 2002. Rising to sergeant with the 1st Cavalry, the “Big Red One,” Christopher served three full tours in Iraq. He was scheduled to return to the U.S. June 1 to marry Rebecca Cadro. But Christopher postponed his flight home for a couple of weeks in the hope of landing another promotion. On June 3, a roadside bomb struck and killed him, leaving behind a devastated family and a state that should be mourning the loss of another hero.
“You know soldiers are dying in Iraq.”