Thursday, October 30, 2008


Today marks 90 days since I arrived in a war zone.

In the building where I spend most of my time, near the entrance/exit, there's a tribute to all of the Soldiers who have died since my Division's arrival Down Range. A large flat-screen video monitor hangs above the memorial stand (boots, inverted rifle/bayonet, ID tags, Kevlar helmet, coins from the CG and CSM) and flags.

The faces of the Soldiers who have died in this Area of Operations, and the simplest of biographical data -- name, rank, unit, birth date, death date, cause of death -- ebb and flow on the screen, to the accompaniment of a somber melody which repeats much more often than do the photos.

Just yesterday I noticed names I recognized because those Soldiers have died since my arrival here in theater.

The mournful music of the memorial can be heard down the hallways, and even when I'm sitting in my boss's office.

I realized this week as I watched, just how many of the Soldiers in those photos are smiling. Where I work, one cannot escape the reality of the human cost of this war, except by actively willing not to pay attention to the visuals and sounds as one enters or exits the building.

How different this is from my experience back home, especially before I joined the Army!

I've seen even very, very, very senior people (in rank, not in age, as I'm one of the oldest non-medical people here!) pause in silence before the memorial, and then resume their hurried pace to wherever they're going.

I always say a silent prayer when passing by.

At one point in the video presentation, the screen fills up completely with tiny images of all those who have died. Those are the casualties from just this Area of Operations, and just since these folks arrived a year ago for their fifteen-month deployment as part of the "surge."

Back home, the costs of this war were much more hidden from my view. I almost never saw photos of flag-draped coffins, and if I didn't watch certain news programs, I'd never have seen the faces of any of the fallen.

For ninety days now, I have daily seen the smiling faces of my dead comrades.

I hope never to forget the truth of what has transpired here.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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