The Taliban succeeded in downing an American helicopter a few days ago, killing thirty American soldiers and seven Afghans. It is the costliest single engagement of our war in Afghanistan. Their deaths will likely occasion renewed questioning of the mission in Afghanistan; this is both right and proper. For the best way to honor the sacrifice our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines make for us is to be extraordinarily stingy with their lives and to make the purposes for which they died worth the cost to our country.
Generally, when our military talks about war dead, they do not use the terminology of lives lost. That gives too little honor to the dead. Our military describes their dead as having sacrificed their lives. It is a poignant distinction, emphasizing that the men and women in our military volunteer for service. They are not required to put their lives at risk. They choose to risk their lives for us.
We have a tendency now, when less than one percent of Americans are in military service, to treat them either as pitiable victims or as our society's avengers. The victim caricature comes through media focus on casualties rather than stories of the vast majority of veterans who are proud of their service and living normal lives. It comes through in shameful condescension likeSenator Kerry suggesting our warriors are in the military because being poorly educated, they have no alternative.