|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
FORT LEWIS, Wash. — Twenty soldiers deployed to Iraq from this Army base were killed in May, a monthly high. That same month, the base announced a change in how it would honor its dead: instead of units holding services after each death, they would be held collectively once a month.
The anger and hurt were immediate. Soldiers’ families and veterans protested the change as cold and logistics-driven. Critics online said the military was trying to repress bad news about deaths. By mid-June, the base had delayed the plan.
[Its commander, Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, was expected to decide Wednesday whether to go through with it.]
“If I lost my husband at the beginning of the month, what do you do, wait until the end of the month?” asked Toni Shanyfelt, who said her husband was serving one of multiple tours in Iraq. “I don’t know if it’s more convenient for them, or what, but that’s insane.”
Military historians and scholars say the proposal and its fallout highlight the tender questions facing the armed forces as casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan mount, and some soldiers and their families come to expect more from military bases than in past conflicts.
During Vietnam and Korea, the historians say, many bases were places for training soldiers and shipping them out, rarely to see them return, with memorial services uncommon. Now, in the age of the all-volunteer force, the base has become the center of community. The Army and other branches have fostered the idea that military service is as much about education, job training and belonging to a community as national defense.
“It wasn’t considered the Army’s business in any of the other wars to conduct these services,” said Alan H. Archambault, director of the Fort Lewis Military Museum, which is supported by the Army. “It was the hometowns of the soldiers that died that had these. Now I think the Army bases are trying to be the hometowns.”
Labels: Iraq casualties