But they’re not.
The NY Times has a piece today, talking about whether the new Obama administration will change the policy on photos of the caskets of dead soldiers coming home from the war front.
After all, the caskets really do show the human cost of this long, long war. And they’re just photos. The photos are what they are.
But they’re not just photos. I am unsure if I can really capture in words just how I feel about this. Those aren’t photos, those are men and women making one last journey.
In the summer of 2003, when my First Sergeant and I were taking home two of our platoons, we were set for a night flight. We staged at the airport in Kuwait City, and when it was time, we loaded everyone onto a big bus and headed out for our airplane. The bus had curtains on the windows, which were drawn closed as it was the middle of the night. No one thought to open them, as everyone was just too excited to be going home.
The bus was full. 1SG and I were, literally, standing next to the bus driver, probably the only two who could see out to the side of the bus, through the front door we were all to use. We drove to our airplane, pulled up alongside it, and stopped. The doors open. And 1SG and I just stood there, waiting.
Our soldiers were anxious, I’m sure. They wanted to honker down into the seat that would take them home to their families, their loved ones.
But all that 1SG and I could see was the sight of the flag-draped caskets being loaded into the cargo hold. There was no way we were going to have our soldiers come bouncing out of that bus, so full of so and glee, and right into this most solemn of scenes. 1SG and I stood there, in quiet unison, and just watched, delaying the magic of getting home, he and I having a quiet moment today in solemn honor of those who would be going home with us, our most honored passengers.
So, this debate over photos hits a nerve with me. I understand that for so many, they’re just photos. But they aren’t. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, maybe I’m not. It’s just how I feel, even if it makes no sense.