Coming from a military family, I have always had a special place in my heart for Memorial Day. Taking time each year to remember people, throughout our nation’s history, who have fought and died defending the principles upon which our country was founded, is simply the right thing to do.
Even when we have been involved in wars that many Americans do not support, or wars that seem confusing, pointless, or lost, it has always seemed to me that we still should honor those who fight in our name. But it is also important to remember, that not only our troops die in war.
The simple truth is, millions of civilians lose their lives in war zones: some because they live there, some because they are support roles serving our troops, and some because they are trying to do something good in the midst of so much that is bad in any war. And as the United States has moved toward a leaner military force, which relies more heavily on civilians to carry out non-combat roles, the number of American civilians stepping into the danger zone has been climbing.
I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to that fact, until I met Michael Hastings. He’s a young reporter for Newsweek who, like all young reports, was terrifically excited when he was sent to Baghdad. He was thrilled with the action, the sense of danger, the day-to-day rush that comes from being in any war zone. Problem is, while all that was happening, he was also falling in love. He met Andi Parhamovich while he was in New York, but soon enough, that charming, idealistic young woman was working for an aid agency in Iraq. They courted amid the gun and rocket fire; shared romantic dinners with helicopters pounding overhead; and ultimately they met with tragedy. Andi was killed when her motorcade was ambushed in Baghdad. Michael found out in a phone call.
It’s an awful story, as so many are in war, but an important one, too, which Michael tells in his book I Lost My Love in Baghdad.
Michael said, when I interviewed him, he wants the story of Andi’s loss to be told, because it is a reminder that there is a story…a real person…behind every name of every casualty we read on-line or in the newspaper, whether that person wore a uniform or not.
I have done three documentaries in the past year and a half on troops we have lost in Iraq, and the very brave way they died. And while this day is, undeniably, about them; it is also a fitting time to remember all those we lose in war. After all, we don’t have a day yet to honor the civilians who fall in battle, but many of them are serving their country, too.
Filed under: Memorial Day
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