Monday, June 27, 2005

Putting A Face On Bush's War Dead

In the fall and winter of 2001, newspapers throughout the land began showing page after page of photos of those killed on September 11. Seeing all of those faces truly drove home the gravity of just how devastating it is to lose 3,000 of our own. The same can be said about our military deaths in Iraq, as the daily death toll continues to roll in.

Today, the total stands at 1,738 men and women killed in that war. I'd like to tell you about just one of those.

Lance Corporal Chad B. Maynard, of Montrose, Colorado, died June 15 when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations near Ar Ramadi, Iraq. Four other Marines were also killed in the explosion.

Maynard, who had always wanted to be a United States Marine and serve his country, was 19 years old. His father and brother were also Marines and he wanted to hold up his part of family tradition, while doing something to help America.

He died a little over a year after graduating from Montrose High School. He had recently married his high school sweetheart, Rebecca, who will deliver their baby girl this summer.

Scott Rizzo, who was one of Maynard's Navy ROTC instructors in high school, remembered him as a selfless and honor-bound young man.

"He believed in values beyond himself. He wanted to serve," said Rizzo. "The tendency for a lot of high school students is to be somewhat self-centered, but he was looking beyond all that. He really believed in the Marine Corps."

So much so, that Maynard went into the Marine's Delayed Entry Program, which required him to complete his high school course work early and to begin boot camp while his peers were still preparing for graduation. Maynard returned to Montrose to take part in his high school graduation ceremony on May 30, 2004 and proudly wore his Marine dress uniform for the ceremony.

Maynard's Marine recruiter, Staff Sergeant Charles White, was impressed with the young man's spirit.
"You meet some kids who know what they want to do, Chad was like that, he knew what he wanted to do since the day I met him," White said.

Summer Kohout, who was Maynard's childhood friend, said that Chad knew what he was getting into when he signed up for the Marines. "He was ready to die for his country. He was always so proud of his country," she said.

Maynard's father, Gene, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, said that his son "believed in what he was doing over there."

This is just one story of over 1,700 men and women who, believing in what their government told them, went to Iraq with a belief that they are making our world safer and defending our way of life. While their motivation was pure, they were being misled in the most despicable way and with consequences that have crippled families and destroyed other lives.

Young people like Chad Maynard believe in our country and are willing to give everything in its defense. They are honorable and the best our country has to offer. The least they have the right to expect is the same honor, honesty and integrity from those at the top of our government.

Our soldiers believe in what they're doing in Iraq because they are trained to believe their superiors -- the thought of their Commander-in-Chief lying to them is not something they would think possible.

I feel horrible for the grief that Chad Maynard's wife, parents, family and friends must feel right now -- and for the little girl who will never know her father. I feel even worse that their pain will only deepen when the root cause of this brave young man's death becomes known.

Lance Corporal Chad B. Maynard died with extreme honor. Perhaps he would not have perished if the leaders of our nation lived that same creed.