Friday, April 23, 2004

Bringing a Marine Home

From BIG, a poster at Little Green Footballs (see post #220) comes this story of a US Marine named LtCol Strobl, who accompanied the body of Marine PFC Chance Phelps home to Wyoming. It's an incredibly moving story and one that is especially fitting as we are mourning Pat Tillman and the other soldiers who have died in order that we might never see another September 11th.

Taking Chance

Be forewarned: read this when you have either a strong heart or a box of tissues nearby ...

"Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn't know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him."

Peggy Noonan on Pat Tillman

Privileged to Serve

Privileged to Serve: In this war, not only the sons of the poor are enlisting.

Friday, July 12, 2002 12:01 a.m.

Maybe he was thinking Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Maybe it was visceral, not so much thought as felt, and acted upon. We don't know because he won't say, at least not in public. Which is itself unusual. Silence is the refuge of celebrities caught in scandal, not the usual response of those caught red-handed doing good.

All we know is that 25-year-old Pat Tillman, a rising pro football player (224 tackles in 2000 as a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, a team record) came back from his honeymoon seven weeks ago and told his coaches he would turn down a three-year, $3.6 million contract and instead join the U.S. Army. For a pay cut of roughly $3.54 million dollars over three years.

On Monday morning, Pat Tillman "came in like everyone else, on a bus from a processing station," according to a public information officer at Fort Benning, Ga., and received the outward signs of the leveling anonymity of the armed forces: a bad haircut, a good uniform and physical testing to see if he is up to the rigors of being a soldier. Soon he begins basic training. And whatever else happened this week--Wall Street news, speeches on the economy--nothing seems bigger, more important and more suggestive of change than what Pat Tillman did.

Those who know him say it's typical Tillman, a surprise decision based on his vision of what would be a good thing to do. When he was in college he sometimes climbed to the top of a stadium light tower to think and meditate. After his great 2000 season he was offered a $9 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Rams and said thanks but no, he was happy with the Cardinals.

But it was clear to those who knew Mr. Tillman that after September 11 something changed. The attack on America had prompted a rethinking. Len Pasquarelli of ESPN reported last May that the "free-spirited but consummately disciplined" starting strong safety told friends and relatives that, in Mr. Pasquarelli's words, "his conscience would not allow him to tackle opposition fullbacks where there is still a bigger enemy that needs to be stopped in its tracks." Mr. Tillman's agent and friend Frank Bauer: "This is something he feels he has to do. For him, it's a mindset, a duty."

"I'm sorry, but he is not taking inquiries," said the spokeswoman at Fort Benning. She laughed when I pressed to speak to someone who might have seen Mr. Tillman or talked to him. Men entering basic training don't break for interviews, she said. Besides, "he has asked not to have any coverage. We've been respecting his wishes. And kinda hoping he'd change his mind." Mr. Tillman would, of course, be a mighty recruiting device. The Army might have enjoyed inviting television cameras to record his haircut, as they did with Elvis. But Mr. Tillman, the Fort Benning spokesman says, "wants to be anonymous like everyone else."

Right now he has 13 weeks of basic training ahead of him, then three weeks of Airborne School, and then, if he makes it, Ranger School, where only about a third of the candidates are accepted. "It's a long row," said the Fort Benning spokesman, who seemed to suggest it would be all right to call again around Christmas. Until then he'll be working hard trying to become what he wants to become.

Which I guess says it all.

Except for this. We are making a lot of Tillmans in America, and one wonders if this has been sufficiently noted. The other day friends, a conservative intellectual and his activist wife, sent a picture of their son Gabe, a proud and newly minted Marine. And there is Abe, son of a former high aide to Al Gore, who is a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, flying SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. A network journalist and his wife, also friends, speak with anguished pride of their son, in harm's way as a full corporal in the Marines. The son of a noted historian has joined up; the son of a conservative columnist has just finished his hitch in the Marines; and the son of a bureau chief of a famous magazine was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army last month, on the day he graduated from Princeton.

As the Vietnam-era song said, "Something's happening here." And what it is may be exactly clear. Some very talented young men, and women, are joining the armed forces in order to help their country because, apparently, they love it. After what our society and culture have been through and become the past 30 years or so, you wouldn't be sure that we would still be making their kind, but we are. As for their spirit, Abe's mother reports, "Last New Year's, Abe and his roommate [another young officer] were home and the topic came up about how little they are paid [compared with] the kids who graduated from college at the same time they did and went into business.

"Without missing a beat the two of them said, 'Yeah--but we get to get shot at!' and raised their beer bottles. No resentment. No anger. Just pure . . . testosterone-laden bravado."

The Abes and Gabes join a long old line of elders dressed in green, blue, gray, white, gold and black. Pat Tillman joins a similar line, of stars who decided they had work to do, and must leave their careers to do it. They include, among others, the actors Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Tyrone Power in World War II; sports stars Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio in the same war; and quarterback Roger Staubach in Vietnam. It is good to see their style return, and be considered noble again.

And good to see what appears to be part of, or the beginning of, a change in armed forces volunteering. In the Vietnam era of my youth it was poor and working-class boys whom I saw drafted or eagerly volunteering. Now more and more I see the sons and daughters of the privileged joining up.

That is a bigger and better story than usually makes the front page. Markets rise and fall, politicians come and go, but that we still make Tillmans is headline news.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Her most recent book, "When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan," is published by Viking Penguin. You can buy it from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays.
Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pat Tillman, an American Hero, is Dead.

Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals football player (and the subject of several posts here, as Pat has been one of my heroes for some time) who gave up a multimillion dollar salary to enlist in the Army and defend our country, has been killed in a firefight in Afghanistan.
(ABC NEWS) In the Line of Duty: U.S. Army Ranger and Ex-NFL Player Pat Tillman Killed in Afghanistan

A former member of the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman, along with his brother Kevin, enrolled with the U.S. Army Rangers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

According to a Pentagon source, Tillman was killed in action when his Rangers patrol was attacked by small arms fire and mortars during a coordinated ambush in eastern Afghanistan.

One enemy combatant was killed, and Tillman was the only U.S. soldier killed during the ambush, said Pentagon sources. His brother, Kevin, is in the same platoon.

My heart is too heavy from sadness and bewilderment to write any more about this right now.

God Bless Pat Tillman, and the other soldiers who have lost their lives protecting us from the scourge of terror. And may God protect the other soldiers who fight on in his stead.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

For those who take their freedom for granted, a must read ...

Roger L. Simon points the way to a poignant and powerful essay by Mohammed, one of the two brothers (Omar being the other) who write the blog Iraq The Model. In today's piece, titled "A Routine Day in Iraq", Mohammed tells of his wishes for an Iraq free of the fears and violence of Saddam's regime, and how, on his birthday, he fears that his liberators may have more courage to stay the course than he does:

"The hardest thing is that I have to fight more, and I will, but God, please give me the strength. Why should I be strong while watching others run away; Spain, Honduras, Thailand, human organizations, the UN and all the others who want (and it’s their right I must say) to avoid the dangers. But why did they disappoint us? Why abandon us in this moment when we really need them? Will they come back when conditions improve? Most likely, but who will need them then!!? We don’t need doctors and engineers. We have enough of those and large numbers of Iraqi doctor, teachers and engineers are working abroad. We do export minds, and some of those have returned and are doing their job and some are on their way back. We need political, financial and military support, and once we get rid of the terrorists, WE will show you what we can do, and we will not forget those who helped us, they will remain as friends and allies, that’s from a political point of view. As for me, they will remain as my real family, my brothers and sisters.

One of our friend (sic) was angry when he saw the former slaves burn the flag of their liberators (and he has all the right to feel so), but I saw my country being destroyed for 35 years and I’m not desperate because I have faith that it will be rebuild one day. Still, why am I supposed to be the 'superman' who is never allowed to feel angry, sad or frustrated?"

I'll be thinking of Mohammed and Omar as I cast my vote for President Bush this November. We cannot turn our backs on them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

From the "Doesn't Government Have Better Things To Do?" file ...

State, County May Require Condoms in Adult Films

Don't get me wrong; preventing the spread of AIDS is an important issue. But if a group of adults is determined to engage in unsafe behavior, esp. when such behaviors can be rendered (relatively) harmless with minimal effort on their part, is it not a waste of government's finite resources to attempt to change their mind? Such is the problem in La-La Land:

After almost a year of urging the adult-film industry to require actors to wear condoms during sex scenes, state and county officials say the recent HIV infection of two porn stars has given them the leverage they need to force change. State and Los Angeles County health officials said Monday they believed existing regulations gave them the authority to require adult-film actors to use condoms, and the state Division of Occupational Health and Safety plans to begin inspections this week, marking the first time Cal/OSHA has investigated the adult-film industry ... some industry officials say pornographic movie production would move out of state if condom use were required.

Although a few California adult-film producers have voluntarily switched to condom-only productions, the majority of producers and distributors have balked at doing so. It is conventional wisdom within the multibillion-dollar industry, which employs more than 6,000 people in California (including about 1,200 performers), that using a condom doesn't pay.

"It's market forces," said Mark Kulkis, president of Kick Ass Pictures, a production company based in downtown Los Angeles that specializes in fetish films. "The bottom line is, customers don't like [to see] condoms."

I'm all about the market forces - but if you are stupid enough to go along with this caveat, all I can say is you'd better have iron-clad private insurance, 'cause the State of California has no business paying for your healthcare when you come down with AIDS. That's what the legislature ought to be doing - protecting the state's finances from people who are determined to give the term "Career Suicide" a literal interpretation, not trying to legislate common sense in an industry filled with, pardon the expression, headcases.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Melanie Phillips: The Hard Lessons of Terror

A regular op-ed columnist for London's Daily Mail, Melanie Phillips is one of the most rational journalist in Europe. On the heels of Israel's pre-emptive strikes on the '"spiritual" and "political" leadership palestinian terror group Hamas, Phillips argues that Europe is not ready, not is it willing, to face the truth about Islamist terror, and may pay the price for its' policy of appeasement:

The danger lies in not recognising that terrorism is encouraged by weakness, not strength. Al Qaeda attacked America because it perceived the west was decadent and so assumed it was not prepared to fight. It made a big mistake over America, but it got Europe (with the exception of Tony Blair over Afghanistan and Iraq) dead right.

The history of modern terrorism is a history of appeasement. From the first Palestinian plane hijacking in 1968, the response of the west was to assume there were legitimate grievances that had to be addressed. From that point, terrorists had every incentive to continue.

Read it all, and you will understand why pulling our troops from Iraq is not an option, and why negotiations with terrorists (such as is going on in Fallujah with the Iranian puppet Al-Sadr) will only lead to further bloodshed.