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Whom shall we mourn?

Dave Clark • Jan 30, 2020 at 1:15 PM

There was recently a tragic event that took the life of a venerable citizen of our country, Kobe Bryant, a beloved basketball icon and an individual who tried to give back to his community. There has been a nationwide outpouring of sympathy and mourning for his loss.

Somewhere below the radar of what passes for news in our country, another person died under tragic circumstances. On Jan. 24, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was serving in Syria, performing a route clearing operation, when he was involved in a rollover accident and died. He lost his life in the service of this country, yet his passing went all but unnoticed by the national networks.

I feel the accidental death of anyone is heartbreaking in the eyes of God and those who hold them dear. However, I am struck with the importance projected on celebrities and their lives, while we neglect not just the deaths, but sacrifices, of those we put in harm’s way on behalf of our national security and foreign policies. This disturbs me.

Somehow this sentiment is politically incorrect. Army Maj. Gen. John Evans was roundly criticized for his tweet, “Lots of people mourning a basketball player this morning. I think I’ll use my energy to remember SPC Moore and his Family.” Perhaps stated a bit too starkly, he modified his comments, “Allow me to Retweet my original Tweet in the SPIRIT for which it was intended: ‘Lots of people mourning a basketball player this morning. I think I’ll use my energy to ALSO remember SPC Moore and his Family.’ I meant no disrespect to the families of the nine who were lost.”

Perhaps empathy and sympathy are not just gas in a tank, only so much of it, to be used sparingly. Certainly, there is sentiment aplenty for all who die under tragic circumstances. Yet, I see no mass vigils or vast memorials of flowers and notes for a servant of this country. The deaths from our “forever wars” have become, if not routine, then un-newsworthy.

This is the real calamity, not that we honor our sports heroes and Hollywood celebrities, rather that we fail to honor those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” on behalf of what sometimes seems a rather ungrateful and self-absorbed populous. To be honest, I must be counted among those people so preoccupied with the trials of my own life that also fail to recognize and acknowledge my fallen brethren.

Still, I feel that we have become a “trivial” society, or at least a nation that focuses on the trivial. The incessant babbling heads on national networks got very engaged when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston hugged backstage at the Screen Actors Guild awards. Are they dating again? Seriously, is this what we care about?

It is easy to see how a senior military leader might take umbrage, even if the comments came across as mean-spirited or insensitive.

As I write this, the heavy “whump-whump” of Army Blackhawk helicopters reverberates overhead, likely from 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell heading to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The sound is unmistakable for anyone who served, easily differentiated from the whine of local civilian helicopters, and a reminder that our military operates beyond and isolated from us. They look down from on high perhaps wishing they were enjoying the life we lead, yet bound to their brothers and sisters, and our country, in a way most of us cannot fathom.

So, if you want to mourn a sports superstar, one who has in many ways set an example for other professional athletes, by all means do so. But, please find room in your heart to remember those who have truly sacrificed for “you.” I choose to mourn them.

In honor of those who have fallen in America’s Global War on Terror: Operation Enduring Freedom (2,351 killed, 20,147 wounded); Iraqi Freedom (4,432 killed, 31,994 wounded); and New Dawn (74 killed, 298 wounded).

Dave Clark is a Kingsport businessman and a former alderman.

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