Saturday, May 20, 2006

What Is The Elephant?

Gaius of Blue Crab Boulevard shares an insightful e-mail from his son in Iraq.

I've fired my weapon in anger, though only in a suppressive manner, by which I mean I've never leveled my sights on another man and ended his life with a hail of 5.56mm NATO standard rounds. My friends, and all of my unit, redeployed to the United States in 2005 without a single purple heart. An unskilled sniper tried to shorten my existence while I was serving as a gunner on a convoy during the summer of 2004, but his bullet missed by such a wide margin it impacted the truck behind me. I slept in forward operating bases and got mortared so many times I couldn't count them all even with my shoes off, but only a few even got close enough to disturb the air around me. My point is, I have a hard time saying out loud that I have seen the Elephant.

I've never tried to curl up in my helmet during a concentrated artillery barrage. I've never rushed a machine gun nest. I've never seen hordes of my enemies advancing relentlessly across an open plain. I've never held the limp body of a friend in my arms and wondered how I still lived while he lay dead. To me, the men (and more recently, women) who have endured these hardships of war are the ones who have truly seen the Elephant.

Don't miss reading the whole rumination, from someone who is among those to whom we are indebted.