War and the Finality of Death: Now You See Me, Now
by BernWei1aolcom on May 9, 2012Today, U.S. President Barack Obama uses the term "Overseas Contingency Operation." However, it is simply a repackaging of the "'War on Terror" initiated by then US President George W. Bush. Translated, it is close to a two decade global military struggle against any terrorist organization and regime accused of supporting in any way or being connected to militant Islamists and al-Qaeda posing threatening pretensions to America and its allies. The last straw was the "911 attacks." There were many precursors, You pick the main one: The origins of al-Qaeda's inspiration of worldwide terrorism as a reaction to the 1979-1989 Soviet war in Afghanistan, the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in August of 1998 in Kenya and Tanzania, Osama bin Laden's February 1998 signing of his "Fatwa" as the head of al-Qaeda, declaring war on the West and Israel or even the aborted January 1, 2000 bombing of the Los Angeles International Airport. None of the aforementioned compared to the September 11, 2001 New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania attacks which killed 2,993 people. American war fever was piqued. U.S. armed forces initiated its War in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The stated goal was to dismantle the al-Qaeda terrorist organization and eliminate Afghanistan as its base. Although President Bush promised to remove the Taliban regime from power and replace it with a democratic state, over a decade later Americans continue to battle the Taliban insurgency and die in the process.
It is those American lives lost that are chosen as the prevailing theme of Tina Marie Fitzgerald's book "Emily's Robert E." While this can be seen as a heartbreaking love story, it is not designed to have what Fitzgerald terms a "Feel good story with a happily ever ending." Wars kill. America should know. The Revolutionary War of 1775 to 1783 killed 25,000 fathers, brothers, etc. This was a drop in the bucket to the U.S. Civil War, claiming a total of 625,000 Confederate and Union lives. Although there were the Indian Wars, the Spanish American and Philippine wars, it would take until 1916 for America to enter the "War to End All Wars." World War II claimed 116,516, and a little over two decades later join the fray against Fascism, killing 405,399 of us. We weren't finished though. Becoming the "world's policeman" against Communist expansion, 36,516 would perish from 1950 to 1953 in Korea and 58,272 in Viet Nam, not to mention the 2,500 still today missing in action, never to be accounted for. After nationwide protests and uproar over America's involvement in Vietnam all being based on a sham attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, the leak of the Pentagon Papers and Nixon's embarrassing exit, this country needed a good reason to go at it again. The end of the war in Iraq claimed 4,477 American dead and 31,965 wounded. The still ongoing operation in Afghanistan stands at 6,280 killed and a staggering 41,936 seriously wounded.
Author Fitzgerald makes the reader think carefully about the above statistics. She asks you, the reader, the following; "Casualties aren't just about lives that can never be given back but also about lives seized. When a soldier's life is taken, who immediately thinks of the widow, widower or orphans that were created? It doesn't matter what side a soldier fights for, the results are the same. People rarely think about those who are left behind or about any impending consequences resulting from a person's death; soldier or otherwise. Not only was Fitzgerald herself an ex Marine, she did her homework to write this. Meticulously researching America's Spring, 2003 Iraqi invasion dubbed "Operation Iraqi Freedom," you will find a diary in this book any Marine will concur as to its accuracy. Describing time spend in the dessert of Iraq's "big sandbox" is true to form. There's an added plus; many anecdotes Fitzgerald included were based on true events in her own life. Hailing from Mena, Arkansas, Fitzgerald included hometown characters, intelligently weaving them into the story. This is also the author's catharsis, infusing the storyline with personal situations in her own life. At the tender age of fifteen, Fitzgerald lost a very important friend, using Emily's Robert E." as a release, analyzing feelings and emotions she had kept to herself for years. Volunteering as a U.S. Marine, Fitzgerald after five months of marriage was in a near fatal automobile accident. The repercussions were ugly; her marriage ended and her military career was cut short. Turning bitterly vitriolic, Fitzgerald lost many friends. Fitzgerald laments; "The war has never ended for some." And of our troops still in Afghanistan today? Fitzgerald wrote; "The longer we're here, the more I find myself wondering and questioning at least to myself what exactly we have or were supposed to accomplish. We were supposedly coming to fight a war on terrorism, then we were here to help these people and we've only made more of a mess out of things. This country is in worse shape than it was before we got here."
Fitzgerald frighteningly continues; "Snipers think of ways to peck off troops before breakfast every morning like we wonder when this is all going to be over every night. Their days start with waking up thinking how many people they'll get to shoot like we wake up wondering what's for chow. That's their job. And don't forget the rebels who know daily schedules who might let a convoy pass today, then maybe tomorrow kill one or two of us just because they can? Roadside bombs go off with such a rate that the noise isn't such a big deal anymore, it's a given." Regardless, Fitzgerald ends this amazing book by reminding us that despite the casualties in all our wars, the following truism exists; "Do you know your purpose today? Or is it just another day? Are you going through the motions of the same routine? If you're a child of God, know that he has assigned a purpose for you today. Fulfilling your purpose does not mean everything will be completed as planned. Why? Interruptions. In his heart, a man plans his cause but the Lord determines his steps. Our tragedies are God's tools. What we do with them is determined by circumstance. It is the gifts given by God that help us in any situation. The gift of life is the most sacred of all." This is sage advice given by an author who intuitively knows exactly how to put things into perspective. "Emily's Robert E." is a book that simply cannot be put down, not to mention one that will compel the reader to perpetually carry its message! "Semper Fi" T.M. Fitzgerald !
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