Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Of body counts and love letters

The New York Times today produced four full length pages that incorporated black and white photographs of the faces of the latest 1000 soldiers killed in action over in Iraq. I guess it was published to remember two anniversaries coming close to each other around this time: The war entering the sixth year and the 'round number' of four thousand soldiers killed in the conflict.
I tried reading through the names and after a while, I got lost in the mind numbing implications of missed connections behind these black and white closely spaced photographs. Around me, I counted about four people reading the Times and I waited to see their reactions as they got to this page. Two of them registered no recognition - they passed over these four pages of dead faces like one passes over a back page advert for used cars. One had a look of resignation and flipped over to the next page for more news and a fourth person stared at it for a long time, closed the paper, threw it into the trash can and looked out the window across the New York harbor.

I also remember doing a quick mental calculation to see how many pages the Times would need to print the nameless faces of the estimated 600,000 Iraqi citizens slaughtered during the course of this war and it comes out to about 2400 full sheet newsprint sized pages.

From the journal (copy of letter here) of Specialist Daniel Gomez, an Army combat medic writing to Ms Katy Broom, the love of his life.

Hey baby. If you’re reading this, then something has happen to me and I am sorry. I promised you I would come back to you, but I guess it was a promise I could not keep. You know I never believe in writing “death letters.” I knew if I left one for my folks it would scare them. Then I met you. We were supposed to meet, darling. I needed someone to make me smile, someone that was an old romantic like I was. I was going through a very rough time in Iraq and I was startin to doubt my mental state. Then one day after a patrol, I go to my facebook and there you were...

I can’t stop crying while I writing this letter, but I have to talk to you one last time, because maybe the last time I heard your voice I did not know it would be the last time I heard your voice....

I Love You. Go be happy, go raise a family. Teach your kids right from wrong, and have faith, darling. I think I knew I loved you even before I met. I love you, Katy. * Kiss * Goodbye

On July 18, 2007, two months after his leave, Specialist Gomez died in Adhamiya when the Bradley fighting vehicle he was in struck a roadside bomb. The explosion and flames also killed three other soldiers.

Of course, not all is gloom and doom as the following video shows.

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