Thursday, December 31, 2009

This Year's Stern, Tragic Beauty

"Traveler, take this word to the men of Lakedaimon:
We who lie buried here did what they told us to do."

The things that make us proud often do not make us happy. I don't know how else to say it. A stern joy, perhaps. A better understanding of duty, be it large or small. An understanding of the cost of freedom--not in the jingoistic way that phrase is used, but in the way of knowing our room to breathe is made up of other people's efforts and frequently their sacrifices.

For the most part we don't know them as individuals. But they served our community and were injured or died for us. That's a kind of love they gave us.  This post is here to sternly and lovingly acknowledge it.

Here at home:
One hundred and twenty U.S. law enforcement deaths in 2009.

Four Canadian law enforcement officer deaths, 2009.

Ninety-two U.S. firefighters killed in the line of duty, 2009.

Out in the battlefields:
These are military deaths in Iraq.
One hundred fifty-one deaths by coalition forces in 2009.

One hundred fifty deaths by U.S. servicemen and women in 2009.
More than six hundred wounded in 2009.

Military deaths in Afghanistan, but also in peripheral areas.
Five hundred and twenty deaths in coalition forces in 2009.

Three hundred and nineteen deaths by American forces in 2009.
One hundred thirty-eight deaths by Canadian forces in 2009.

And a moment for their loved ones, who still grieve.

A moment for people of good will who decided not to be a bystander, who acted from principles of virtue.

For the innocent don't feel innocent any more. You may be tarnished. You're all the more important because of it. Allow us to bumble our way to you.

References: Simonides of Ceos, Trans. Richard Lattimore; the Officers Down Memorial Page. and the same organization for Canada; the USFA Firefighters Memorial site. Canada has the Fallen Firefighters Foundation: no information for 2009 yet. You are not forgotten.
Military figures from, a site that was dedicated to counting and remembering the fatalities in this war, long before anyone else would try. Photo: zento.

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