Brooke M. Campbell – 2004-09-14 18:13:31
More than 1,000 American have now died in Iraq, in addition to the many thousands of our young men and women seriously injured and maimed.
The following letter was recently posted on Truthout.org by the sister of one of the soldiers who died in this unnecessary and illegal war. Let us also not forget the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have died and the countless thousands injured. This war is far from glorious, and those leading it are not in any way heroic.
This letter — from one of the family members of the more than 1,000 soldiers whose dreams are now ended, whose lives are now gone — confronts the arrogance of power with the profound sanctity of the value of life. — David Krieger / Waging Peace
To Whom It May Concern
By Brooke M. Campbell
Friday 03 September 2004
I found out that my brother, Sergeant Ryan M. Campbell, was dead during a graduate seminar at Emory University on April 29, 2004. Immediately after a uniformed officer knocked at my mother’s door to deliver the message that broke her heart, she called me on my cell phone.
She could say nothing but “He’s gone.” I could say nothing but “No.” Over and over again we chanted this refrain to each other over the phone as I made my way across the country to hold her as she wept.
I had made the very same trip in February, cutting classes to spend my brother’s two weeks’ leave from Baghdad with him. Little did I know then that the next time I saw him would be at Arlington National Cemetery. During those days in February, my brother shared with me his fear, his disillusionment, and his anger.
“We had all been led to believe that Iraq posed a serious threat to America as well as its surrounding nations,” he said. “We invaded expecting to find weapons of mass destruction and a much more prepared and well-trained Republican Guard waiting for us. It is now a year later, and alas, no weapons of mass destruction or any other real threat, for that matter.”
Ryan was scheduled to complete his one-year assignment to Iraq on April 25. But on April 11, he emailed me to let me know not to expect him in Atlanta for a May visit, because his tour of duty had been involuntarily extended. “Just do me one big favor, ok?” he wrote. “Don’t vote for Bush. No. Just don’t do it. I would not be happy with you.”
Last night, I listened to George W. Bush’s live, televised speech at the Republican National Convention. He spoke to me and my family when he announced, “I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride?
“It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.”
My Reply to Mr. Bush
This is my reply: Mr. President, I know that you probably still “don’t do body counts,” so you may not know that almost one thousand US troops have died doing what you told them they had to do to protect America. Ryan was Number 832.
Liberty was, indeed, precious to the one I lost — so precious that he would rather have gone to prison than back to Iraq in February. Like you, I don’t know where the strength for “such pride” on the part of people “so burdened with sorrow” comes from; maybe I spent it all holding my mother as she wept.
I last saw my loved one at the Kansas City airport, staring after me as I walked away. I could see April 29 written on his sad, sand-chapped and sunburned face.
I could see that he desperately wanted to believe that if he died, it would be while “doing good,” as you put it. He wanted us to be able to be proud of him.
Mr. President, you gave me and my mother a folded flag instead of the beautiful boy who called us “Moms” and “Brookster.” But worse than that, you sold my little brother a bill of goods.
Not only did you cheat him of a long meaningful life, but you cheated him of a meaningful death. You are in my prayers, Mr. President, because I think that you need them more than anyone on the face of the planet. But you will never get my vote.
So to whom it may concern: “Don’t vote for Bush. No. Just don’t do it. I would not be happy with you.”
Brooke M. Campbell