Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Dear Mr. President,
While you and I were enjoying Easter dinner with our families, a young man from a neighboring town was killed thousands of miles away in Iraq. Private Brown and his National Guard unit were killed in an ambush near Samarra. Four local soldiers from the unit were injured.

The funeral was held last Tuesday. I was disappointed that you chose not to attend, Mr. President. Though I don't know them, I think the family of Pvt. Brown would've been interested in asking you a few questions. One of your spokespeople says that you don't attend any military funerals because you don't want to suggest that one soldier's death is more worthy of your time than the hundreds of others. This seems a fair enough point.

Still though, when Pat Tillman, a former football player turned Army Ranger, died, you spoke words praising specifically him. I admit he made quite a sacrifice turning down millions of dollars in the NFL to join the military. I respect that he believed in whatever the cause is enough to do this. Though he wasn't a semi-famous athlete, I'm pretty sure Pvt. Brown made sacrifices to be in Iraq, even before his very life became one of them. Such as being away from the woman he was going to marry next year.

The reason I think her family would've benefited from you calling them, Mr. President, is because Pvt. Brown's mother told our local paper, "He did not approve of what the president was doing. I can tell you that."

What gets me, Mr. President, is that Pvt. Brown didn't join the Army. He didn't join the Army Reserves. He joined the Army National Guard. The National Guard is not supposed to see combat except in the most extreme of circumstances. I do not think our local Guard unit has been sent to combat since World War II. I suspect Pvt. Brown thought he'd see combat only if the United States were attacked by Uzbekistan or Samoa.

The National Guard's primary task, at least around here, is to help out when there are floods or other civil disturbances. I think some of them might have kept patroled the Albany airport when it re-opened following 9/11. That's what the National Guard here does. They don't go to combat except in the most extreme circumstances. Only as a last resort. Or at least that was the way things were when Pvt. Brown joined. That was his understanding. That is the basis upon which he offered his consent.

The US has the most powerful army in the world. It spends more on national "defense" than the next 15 highest spenders COMBINED. Why is it that young men like Pvt. Brown, who signed up to deal with black outs and ice storms, are being sent to face gunfire and rocket propelled greandes in a foreign land that was never any threat to America?

A local paper reported that Pvt. Brown, who was 21, wrote to his mom about how he went i nto an orphanage in Iraq to deliver meals to children there. Mrs. Brown told the paper, "It would break his heart. When he saw the kids on the street, he would give them some food. He asked me to send him bags of candy," for the children.

This is the kind of human being you've chosen to sacrifice in Iraq. Was this really the best use of his energy, passion and talents? I don't know.

Since neither you nor your children have ever been soldiers in a combat zone, you don't know what he went through and you don't know what his family is going through. If you talked to them, you might get a more full idea of what war is about.

If Pvt. Brown can summon the courage to face real, mortal danger, then surely you can have the courage to face the wrath of his mother and fiancee.

At least you know they won't put a rocket-propelled grenade through your limo, Mr. President.

I know you're busy figuring out what Sen. Kerry did in 1971 but I still think you should call the recruiter for our local National Guard unit. I'm sure the sergeant will be happy to give you the phone number of Pvt. Brown's family.

Sincerely yours,

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