Soldier Receives Standing Ovation during State of the Union: Why?

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During President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, an injured US Army soldier received a standing ovation. His story certainly sounds quite heavy, and he suffers from the aftereffects of severe injuries received in Afghanistan. I am always impressed with the resiliency of individuals able to sustain such debilitating injuries and yet carry on.

As CNN reports:

Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg was seated beside first lady Michelle Obama as President Barack Obama heralded his sacrifice in Afghanistan.

During his final tour of duty in October 2009, Remsburg was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The blast left him in a coma for three months. He was partially paralyzed and brain damaged.

Obama said Remsburg is blind in one eye and struggles with movement on his left side.

“Cory is here tonight,” Obama said as cameras fixed on the Army Ranger in his full-dress uniform.

“And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit. Cory!”

As those packing the House chamber jumped to their feet and erupted in applause, Remsburg stood and gave the crowd a thumbs up. Obama reciprocated by saluting him….

Obama first met the 30-year-old at the 65th anniversary of D-Day at Omaha Beach in 2009, before the roadside bomb blast.

“Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program, the ceremony – he was a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack,” Obama said during the speech. “We joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.”

Obama again met Remsburg at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, as he lay in the hospital after the bomb blast nearly killed him.

“He couldn’t speak; could barely move,” Obama said. “Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.”

I am certainly glad that Sgt Remsburg is alive, and apparently in good spirits; but reading this troubles me with a powerful and ever-present question: Why? It is the question that politicians dare not answer, and the question that most of the public probably does not want to hear the answer to. Why is Sgt Remsburg blind in one eye, and somewhat paralyzed on his left side? Why has he had to endure countless surgeries and grueling hours of rehab? Why has he had to have his entire life turned upside to deal with these severe injuries?

If you answered “Because he hit a roadside bomb”, you are incorrect, or at least not thinking about this question in the proper manner. Hitting the roadside bomb was how he received these injuries, but not why.

Think about it. Why? Why was Sgt Remsburg in a position to be blown up by a roadside bomb? Why was his unit patrolling in the area (or whatever their mission was)? Why was Army brass sending him there? Why is Army brass interested in Afghanistan? Why is the Department of Defense interested in Afghanistan? Why is the United States of America interested in occupying Afghanistan? Why are we there?

Why, indeed.

This the overarching question that American politicians do not want to even acknowledge. Why do we have to have soldiers that throw themselves on grenades to save others? Why do we have to have soldiers get shot to pieces while entering the line of fire to rescue wounded or pinned-down comrades? Why do we have to have soldiers who get attacked and killed by supposedly allied Afghan National Army personnel? Why, for heaven’s sake, do we have these stories?

The American Public loves to salute killed soldiers as “fallen heroes”. The public loves tributes to fallen heroes at ball games and before TV events.  The public never asks this question: How many fallen heroes do we have to have? How many more families need to lose a father or mother, husband or wife, brother or sister? How many more parents need to tragically bury their own sons and daughters? When will enough, finally be enough? Will it ever be enough? When will the collective suffering of thousands of amputees, burn victims, and mentally-traumatized soldiers begin to outweigh Afghanistan? When will the collective weight of the thousands of flag-draped coffins finally begin to outweigh Afghanistan? Will it ever? Is the mission in Afghanistan so compelling and imperative that it is worth 2,000 dead soldiers, and nearly 20,000 wounded?

I am not going to answer these questions now, although you can probably guess at how I would answer these questions. I want you to think about it on your own.  If you want to hear more in this vein, read this.

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