Thursday, March 18, 2010

What is a girl like you doing in a box like that?

 The message couldn't be plainer: Israel's intransigence could cost American lives. " Mark Perry - Foreign Policy
Pfc. Erin L. McLyman, 26, of Federal Way, Wash., died March 13, 2010 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked her base with mortar fire. She was assigned to the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lews-McChord, Wash. Government Press Release (hat to Rutabaga Ridgepole)
David Seaton's News Links
When I followed up the government press release, the picture of Erin McLyman that I found in the Tacoma News Tribune, hit me like a punch in the stomach. Paint a red beard on her and she looks just like I did at 26... That's the age she was when she died.

My family tree is filled with McThises and McThats and before it turned gray I had the same Celtic red hair as Erin did, and so did my mom, and so did her mom, and for that matter so did her mom too... and Badb only knows how many more of us before that.

If this tribal business is so important in all things pertaining to the Middle East,  Erin might not have been of "The Tribe", but she sure as hell was from my tribe.

It also brought it home to me that when we hear talk about "support our troops", it's not like when I was a kid and they were "our boys"... Now it's "our girls" that are also getting cut down by enemy fire, in a useless war, in what, with no exaggeration, we could call the "the flower of their youth".
The latest Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier reported killed in Iraq overcame drug addiction in her teen years and later served in the Air Force and Army before dying from mortar fire on her first deployment. (...) The 26-year-old is the fourth soldier from the Stryker brigade to die since it deployed in August; the first three were not combat-related.(...) And, to underscore the increasing role women play in combat zones, three of the past four Lewis-McChord soldiers to die in Iraq have been women. Tacoma WA. News Tribune
She looks vital and charming in the photo, but as you see reading the article she didn't have that easy a life. She was obviously a person of will power, able to take control of her life and possessed of a desire to escape a toxic environment and have something to be proud of.

Her short life and violent death also brings home some other things that bear thinking about. According to her home town newspaper she was proud to serve, and her family is proud of her sacrifice.

If she was and they are, we should be too.

But, to me it is a hell of a thing that we have arranged our economic system in such a way that, these days, practically the only way that a pretty working class girl with only a high school education can avoid the fate of slaving, working-poor, in a Walmart or as a waitress in a funky bar and all that goes with that and manage to achieve a structured life with good medical care and opportunities for vocational training or further education and a decent pension on retiring is to have to risk losing her life or getting mutilated in some far off land. ... And find herself buying the farm just for trying to get the things that are simply normal entitlements that go with citizenship in most developed countries.

Helluva thing. DS

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