The latest victim of the war in Afghanistan is Gunner Jonathan Dion whose body will have arrived home by now. Most media outlets published photos of his comrades carrying his casket; many of those soldiers overcome with grief.
One particular lad, a burly blonde haired, blue eyed soul had tears streaming down his face. In the new world of broadcasting, where good News and sad News is articulated with the same indifferent resonance, the reporter lamented soldiers were overcome with grief. As the procession continued and the tears fell, each frame of the video kept capturing what would have seemed an eternity, since soldiers and big boys aren’t supposed to cry.
When the casket was loaded onto the plane, it passed two other soldiers who were badly injured in the same melee that claimed Dion’s life. With some assistance, they rose to their feet from their wheel chairs, offering a salute to Dion. That sign of respect and conviction even choked up the press corps, admitted one reporter.
As the years pass, we find increasingly that the many stereotypes that surround life are not all true. Soldiers and other tough guys sure do their jobs, but to believe when an incident is finished that it is completely over is incorrect. People in any line of work who see people and events at their worst suffer far more than the average person thinks. To think a tear is never shed is to fail to realize people are human first.
We think of firefighters, police officers, ambulance personnel, hospital workers and members of the armed forces who see things many of us could not stomach. Dealing with inconsolable victims, their friends, and family is gut wrenching. No amount of training or pretend sessions can prepare an officer to deliver the message to those at home that their loved one has perished.
Little helps first responders to an accident scene where they might rescue someone or face the task of recovering a body. Training kicks in, but once the incident has been resolved, we are very sure there are tender moments when they need to talk over what happened. The great benefit to us , is the conviction such service providers have recovered somewhat – by returning to their next call.
Our soldiers continue to be called into action to enforce peace and clear out insurgents who, for the most part, do not rule based on democratic principles. While the carnage and loss of life by our soldiers is very troubling, we need to remember the disturbing number of innocent victims in these conflicts.
It is too bad that the salty tears of despair will be with us for some time. But, for the sake of their souls, it is a natural mechanism that makes real men out of boys. Big boys do cry.