Monday, July 25, 2005

How well do you know your family?

From Guantanamo Bay

A couple of stories caught my eye over the weekend. First, there was this one. You may have heard the gist of it -- on their visit to Guantanamo Bay, Sens. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Akaka (D-Hawaii) apparently got an earful from their respective home-state troops for comments recently made by Durbin, Kennedy, et al., regarding Gitmo.

It seems the troops didn't accept the nuanced distinction by Durbin, et al., that they were only criticizing American policy at Gitmo while supporting those who were carrying out that policy. The troops' reactions to such nonsense were described as "stiff" and they spoke of Sen. Durbin's recent comments with "disdain".

As I have said here and have argued many times and in many places before, criticisms of the troops' mission or conduct in wartime are criticisms of the troops themselves. You can not criticize the chain-of-command without implicating all in it. Even those who don't accept this premise of military order must understand that perception is reality to the troops. And the troops understand Kennedy, Durbin, and their ilk to be undermining their mission ... and criticizing, not supporting them.

I knew the troops would treat Sen. Kennedy this way. How? Well, how to explain ... You see, as my decorated uncle often reminds me, I was not infantry. Yes, I was in the rear with the gear ... not shot at. Indeed, I was in a dreaded support MOS. But still, how do you know what your brother, mother, father, son are going through? How do you know what they feel? How is it that you know ... you just know how they will react? How do you know what is important to them?

You know because they are your family.

So, Sen. Kennedy, please ... meet my family. I am sure they might have some things to say to you. I can't be there with them now, but they are in my prayers and I am proud of them.

Back in Washington

On Friday, My Houston Astros were starting a four-game series with the Washington Nationals. Before the Astros took the field on Friday night, however, their classy owner Drayton McLane arranged for the Astros to make a visit to Walter Reed Hospital to visit wounded troops.

The Houston Chronicle ran a nice story on Saturday about the Astros' visit to Walter Reed, even though reporters weren't allowed to be present when the Astros mingled with the troops. But here's how the paper described the meeting afterwards:
McLane sounded like a proup papa as he described the sight of his athletes eating hot dogs and hamburgers with soldiers their own age who are learning how to get by without arms and legs, or the lives they knew before the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"At first, they were apprehensive because these are soldiers who are badly injured, " said, McLain, who, visiting on his birthday, shared a surprise cake with a young soldier who lost most of one leg and all of the other. "But when they got here, they just lit up. It lifted my heart."

The Astros also hosted several soldiers from Walter Reed at each game and will vistit the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Anyone who meets the soldiers comes away feeling humbled and inspired, said Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, who was with the Astros and frequently stops by the medical center on his own.

"These young people's frame of mind could teach a lot of us," he said. "We get frustrated if traffic is not moving or if we can't find a parking place. These people have lost one limb, or three, and they have to deal with it. ..."
The Astros' All Star closer Brad Lidge was taken aback and humbled by the experience. He said:
"These are the heroes. These are the guys I feel privileged to meet. They were so optimistic about everything. You don't feel sorry for them at all because they won't let you."
So, the wounded troops lifted the Astros as much or more than the Astros lifted them. I am proud of our troops at Walter Reed. However, the fact that they lifted the spirits of the Astros doesn't suprise me at all. Again, I know them. Like family.