My obsession this spring has been the spacious grounds of the recently upgraded ranch. Weeding, mowing, pest eradication and minor landscaping have dominated my thoughts and intruded into my dreams. Between that and a hectic work schedule, the onset of Memorial Day came almost as a surprise. Tempus fugit and all that.
Taking a quiet moment to contemplate Memorial Day this year, I cannot help but feel a sense of loss and bitterness. Long-time readers know that we have taken it as our honored duty to keep the memory alive of one of our friends - Capt. Sean Grimes - who fell in Iraq seven years ago this spring.
Looking at the disorderly way in which our forces were withdrawn - and the similar sense of urgency in leaving Afghanistan to its fate - it is hard not be bitter about what our military has sacrificed and what our leaders have thrown away.
War is an extension of policy by other means, as Clausewitz pointed out almost 200 years ago, and a rational person can admit that there are times when there is no other recourse than to its dreadful call.
But what if that policy is hopelessly muddled, willfully blind, or cynically driven?
Afghanistan and Iraq were both wars of necessity. Afghanistan had sheltered our enemies and on Sept. 11, 2001, we saw just how deadly they could be. Iraq was an ongoing strategic threat, tying down our forces and constantly attacking our aircraft (though without much effect). Both required a military solution.
Both went well at first, but then bogged down into a foggy counterinsurgency. We gained the upper hand and did so for comparatively little loss of life - far less than Korea, or Vietnam. But then a new administration came in, one devoid of strategic vision and looking only to the next opinion poll. And so we are in retreat.
What did the sacrifice of Sean and his comrades achieve? What is his legacy? They gave up all the tomorrows - for what?
A free Iraq? A modern Afghanistan?
Both teeter on the brink. And then there is Libya, which has spawned at least one civil war (in Mali) and may itself break up.
At this point, we cannot know. I believe that Sean died in the opening round - the overture, if you will - of the clash of civilizations between the West and radical Islam. His actions as a healer proved to those who would listen that there is a better way than one of Islamofascist hate - a path of forgiveness and compassion, of hope and eventual prosperity.
In a larger sense, his sacrifice transcends the political. Like all of our fallen warriors, he was called to serve, and died for his nation. It is the ultimate expression of selflessness. Whatever happens in Iraq, he did not die in vain so long as we honor him, and uphold Freedom.