Wednesday, February 23, 2005

To Our Friends Who Are Still In The Desert

This morning as I was driving to work I noticed a white cross by the road next to the intersection of Nifong and Forum. Last week I'd seen what looked like someone's valentine bouquet that they threw out the car window on about the same spot. This morning when I saw the cross I realized what it was. The cross said "Thank You Molly" on it so I knew it was a tribute to slain Columbia Police Office Molly Bowden, who died the week before after fighting for a month following being shot during a routine traffic stop.

For some reason this struck me more strongly than any of the soldier deaths I'd experienced or learned of. The 5th Engineer trooper Tony lost last year when they were in Iraq, the EOD captain I knew through Chris from when I was stationed at Fort Wood, the sergeant who worked for Verb who was killed in a traffic accident in Germany or the soldier who was killed crossing the street while home on leave all those years ago.

I suspect that part of it is because we're soldiers. Death is part of the business and we know that going in. Most of us have considered it, our own or others (or in the case of the officers, the death of our troops). I know (intellectually) that the same is true of police officers. They know it's dangerous and dying might happen. But I recall when I heard about the situation on the radio. I wanted to go where the suspect was hiding out and "put paid" to him. Assist in the kharma so to speak. However I also realized that I'm only an old broken fat ex-soldier and soldiers are never the ones you want doing police work.

There's been enough stuff on TV and films now that lots of people know what it means when a soldier toasts "Absent companions". But I still prefer the old Foreign Legion toast. It reflects a good deal of their history, the "march or die" philosophy that developed along with the "never give up" attitude. So let me say to Officer Bowden

"To Our Friends Who Are Still In The Desert"

<drinks toast and throws the glass in the fireplace>


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