Impetus Behind The “Company of Heroes”

If you missed “Company of Heroes,” you missed an extraordinary tale of courage and sacrifice — as well as a masterpiece of journalistic work.

There was so much to take away from this two-hour special. For me, two things in particular came to the forefront. We often acknowledge the courage and dedication of our men and women in arms. What engenders such strength and conviction? The first component centers on the role of their families.

It became increasing obvious throughout the piece that most dedicated and courageous soldiers are not born as such. They become fine soldiers through the values and examples set and instilled in them as children. The families showcased in this special – most of which either lost a loved one or had a loved one severely injured — are no less courageous than those serving. Their job of waiting and never knowing may well be as difficult as maintaining training and courage when coming under enemy fire.

Lance Corporal Antoine Smith gave his life in the Battle of Fallujah. A young man from Orlando, Florida, Smith was raised by his mother as a single parent. Smith loved two things: his music (he played the viola); and, the Marines. With permission from his mother, Smith joined the Marines at age 17 — before he was out of high school — and attended training every other weekend. Deborah Smith supported her only child and his passion. She believes in our country, and feels the war in Iraq is important for its defense.

It’s difficult not to draw parallels between Ms. Smith and Cindy Sheehan. Mrs. Sheehan has also lost her son, the eldest of her four children. They have both lost the dearest thing they ever loved. Ms. Smith’s grief is no less than that of Mrs. Sheehan; and, her solitude no less daunting. Both women raised their sons to love God and country. Mrs. Sheehan has three living children; Mrs. Smith had only Antoine. Perspective is where they differ. Mrs. Smith understands that it was the life her son loved and chose for himself. He knew he could be asked to fight anywhere at anytime.

In her grief, Mrs. Sheehan has forgotten this fact. It’s easy to understand that she wants someone to blame for the death of her son. The biggest, clearest target would be President Bush. It makes one wonder, though, what her son would think of her actions. By all accounts, Casey Sheehan “loved to serve.”

But those who knew the young man she so publicly mourns agree that if anyone is an appropriate face for the war’s more than 1,800 U.S. deaths, it is Casey. He had a gentle but firm commitment to family, church and country, re-enlisting after the war started and volunteering for the rescue mission in which he and six others were killed last year. — by Lisa Leff, AP

The second component behind their courage and conviction: these soldiers believe in what there are doing. They believe they are making Iraq, the USA and the world a better place with their actions. Every day, they interact with the Iraqi citizens. They see the progress being made in the political arena and with the upgrading of infrastructure. They bore witness to what the elections meant to the Iraqi people.

One story in the FNC special related how a 90-something Iraqi woman was brought to the polling place in a wheelbarrow. After voting, she left the way she came – raising her purple finger in salute to the US soldiers. The men of India Company, the group spotlighted in the FNC special, were inspired by this act.

Our soldiers on the front line in Iraq truly believe they are doing the right thing. They have seen firsthand the terrorists’ manifestos, the dead and tortured victims they leave behind and the deadly hate they spew against America and all democratic governments, as well as any Islamic that isn’t “with them.” They feel, by their actions in Iraq, they are making our country safer. This is not politics. It is their heartfelt belief.

Forget what President Bush says about Iraq, if you wish. Don’t, however, discount the eyes, ears and instincts of our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, wives and husbands on the front line. Do we have any right to question their judgment? It is, after all, their lives that hang in the balance. From all accounts, they believe they are the first defense against terrorists hell-bent on killing Americans. The Islamic extremists believe it, too.

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