In the hearing before Congress this week, we got to hear Jessica Lynch talk about spin. We got to hear the Tillman family discuss outright deception. Jessica Lynch told us she was confused as to why they lied and tried to make her a hero. I am too. Jessica Lynch was a hero the day she chose to serve her country. She proved that she still is when she testified before Congress to advocate for the American people being told the truth. She is no less a hero because she was knocked unconscious at the beginning of the battle.
I have heard from military families who were told their child died saving others in their unit, battling the enemy, or giving candy to Iraqi children. They sometimes tell these stories with a bit of skepticism. Was it just hype, something to make them feel better about the loss of their child, or was it the truth? Does the military think that the loss of a loved one will be easier if they tell you a lie instead of the truth? Is the motivation to maintain support for a war, as the Tillman family suggests? All wars, even necessary wars, are ugly, full of messy, tragic deaths. Battlefields are not nice places, not everyone dies saving his fellow soldiers or giving candy to Iraqi children.
If the military learns anything from the hearing before Congress, hopefully it will be that military families want the truth. Each time the military lies about how a soldier dies, it sends a message that service alone is anything less than heroic. Some story had to be fabricated to make the death worthwhile because the soldier accidentally died just doing a job.
These kids became heroes the day they decided to serve their country. Most kids their age are not volunteering to go to a war zone, to risk their lives. Young soldiers do something rare. They go far from home, far from their loved ones; they do jobs that are hard and often boring. They are heroes for doing so, and if they die while doing it, that is a heroic death.
But now when a soldier who goes beyond the call of duty and shows exceptional heroism, giving his life for his fellow soldiers, his family is cheated. They are left wondering if they are being told the truth or is this just more hype, more lies?
The Tillman family wants what all military families want: the truth. They have persisted in their battle, refusing to accept anything less. They have gotten further than many other military families because their son's name was Pat Tillman. Their willingness to take their battle before Congress will hopefully result in the military learning that the truth is what military families deserve. It is what the American people deserve.
Our children are not serving in a movie of the week; they are serving in a real war. Hiding the realities of their lives and the tragedies of their deaths, also hides the real heroism these soldiers show when they volunteer to live that war everyday. Their death is the end of their heroism, not the beginning.
Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor of BellaOnline.com, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at IraqSoldierMom@gmail.com.