"Closeup of stitching in the Flag of the United States

Last night on MSNBC’S Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was named Worst Person in the World. He was recognized by Olbermann for this quote about American military casualties:

Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers.

According to Thursday’s Grayson County News-Gazette, the senator from Kentucky said this while campaigning for reelection in Grayson County on Wednesday, November 28.

It reminded me of something I had been reading earlier yesterday afternoon. Apparently, a family from Seattle is driving to Racine today. They’re going to attend a memorial service at Racine Bible Church for Christian Skoglund, a soldier from Racine whose death was reported in the Journal Times on November 8. He had been killed in Italy that day in a Black Hawk helicopter crash southwest of Aviano that also took five other men’s lives. He will be buried this Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

There was a story in the Daily Herald about the memorial service held at Wheaton College on November 14:

Evan Ellsworth, a Wheaton college senior who is the cadet battalion commander in the ROTC program, didn’t know Christian Skoglund.

But he said he is a friend of Skoglund’s younger brother, Lars, a sophomore in the ROTC program.

Ellsworth said Christian Skoglund’s death and the memorial service brought the realities of war and the military much closer to home.

“I’ve never met Capt. Skoglund, but seeing his helmet and boots up there brings all those feelings home,” Ellsworth said. “The battalion has lost a brother and I’ve lost a member of my family, my fraternity.”

Backtracking through the entries in his wife Liz’s blog, I watched some videos she posted of Capt. Skoglund, including a recording of the two of them dealing with a Saturday afternoon in Italy.

Next, I saw her photos of the ramp ceremony and his casket on the tarmac. Over at Stars and Stripes, I read about the repatriation ceremony at Aviano Air Base:

All six were married. Three had children, including one with a newborn. [Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark A.] Spence’s wife, Elena, is expecting the couple’s first child in the spring.

“These six men were proud members of our nation’s military. Our Army. Our Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing and the first speaker.

And then I came to Liz Skoglund’s entry for November 9:

there is no happy place to be found ever again. My husband of 16 months was killed in a helicopter accident yesterday. There are no words to describe it. I am hollow, empty, my insides have been ripped out and life is just not worth living without him. He was the love of my life and I can’t believe that our time together is all over. That is it, all we had together. I am laying here in bed mourning the thoughts that he will never be beside me ever again. He will never hold me or lay here and talk with me before we drift off to sleep. We will never wrestle for my side of the bed again. We will never have children together or go hiking with the dogs. We will never get to visit all the cool places that we had planned and we will never grow old together.

I don’t know any of the people involved here. We are told about military casualties in the news all the time these days, and I guess it’s easy and perhaps even necessary to abstract or compartmentalize it and distance your heart from this kind of intense personal pain.

On the other hand, there is a danger in becoming too distanced.

Update, 12/9/2007: Sunday’s Journal Times includes a story about Saturday’s memorial service.

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