It was late in the afternoon as we passed the Medical Lake entrance to I-90. A group of middle aged bikers merged into traffic. They seemed in no hurry, just fell in with the rest of us. I wondered out loud if they might be some of the honor riders who had been in town for the burial of a young Marine.
He was a good looking young man. All of 23. He was killed by an IED while on patrol. This young man who was liked by everyone who knew him and wanted some adventure in his life. Had he but chosen a different route. He joined the Marines and was promoted to corporal in record time. He dove into everything he was assigned with enthusiasm and commitment. As a reward his family was given the Purple Heart he was awarded for his service.
I wonder how much comfort that was to the young wife he left behind. The pregnant young wife. She and her yet to be born child represent a whole class of citizens left to fend for themselves while ill equipped to do so. They are basically a welfare class unto themselves. Because a soldier died too young.
Every small town newspaper in the country prints stories such as these. The loss of all these young men who have barely had time to live. To be husbands. To be fathers. Little else than soldiers. And they die.
His arrival home affected a whole plane load of people as they were asked to remain seated while his escort deplaned. They watched in reverent silence as the coffin was unloaded and placed in the hearse. I'm sure each had private thoughts about loved ones of their own.
The young Marine is one manner of man in my fantasies. Another is a young man, looking to be of a similar age, bragging about how he was going to use illegal fireworks over the Fourth. "It's America," he said, "We like to blow things up." I wonder if he ever served in the military. Then we have the Marine General who is going to take General Petraeus's place as head of the U.S. Central Command. Odd, since he has been reprimanded for loose language just as was General McChrystal! With typical Marine bravado, he once told a crowd in San Diego, "Actually it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot - It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you. I like brawling." Bully for him.
I wonder, had the young man at the fireworks stand or the General been at the young Marine's funeral if they would have felt the same as taps sounded and rifles fired in salute and friends and family wept. Especially a young wife and her unborn child.