Of Ware and War

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images  The gruesome injury suffered by Louisville guard Kevin Ware on Easter Sunday has both fascinated and aroused the sympathy of the nation.  By the way, this is one tough kid.  Maintaining his composure while in agonizing pain in full view of thousands of fans is an achievement that few of us could hope to emulate.  The other observation is that we have become long accustomed to viewing these college basketball players as grown men playing a grown man’s game.  However, as tall and muscular and as fearsomely tattooed as they might be, the sight of the weeping and profoundly shaken teammates of Ware, some of them prostrate in grief reminded us that in the end, they are just vulnerable kids; barely out of adolescence.  The nation’s profoundly sympathetic response to Ware’s grievous injury has made me wonder about the thousands upon thousands of young men who have also endured terrible injury and trauma over this last decade, but largely out of sight and out of mind.  I cannot help but speculate that if we as a nation had the opportunity to both witness and empathize with the terrible wounds suffered by our nation’s young soldiers, if we would have allowed these conflicts to continue for so long and at such a high cost.  But it was not to be.  The Cheney-Bush government even forbid the photographing of caskets, let alone the display of the war wounds suffered by thousands.  The high emotion displayed by Ware’s teammates was no different than the emotion and sorrow of those soldiers whose friends were killed and injured in battle, yet few outlets existed for them to express their grief and pain, and do not exist to this very day. I will never, ever forget a young Army Captain who wrote to me from Afghanistan, shortly after a popular young man in his platoon was killed by enemy fire.  This Captain, who had grown up in my congregation, was seeking advice as to how best to console his grief-stricken young troops.  In the end, he came up with an idea that brought comfort to the young men under his command.  He asked me to briefly eulogize this fallen soldier at the next worship service, bringing awareness of his sacrifice to the congregation.  Sharing with his troops that their friend was not forgotten brought them a measure of consolation. Watching Kevin Ware’s shocked and distraught teammates wander the hardwood in a daze, it was not hard to imagine equally young men in battle dress and Kevlar wandering equally shocked and saddened in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Only in that instance, we could not see it.

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