Thoughts on the Tragedy in TN

Today started out like any other day in which we are hosting family in town.  We got up, watched a little television while getting dressed, and then headed out on a “field trip” to the zoo.  On our zoo agenda?  Pandas and lions.  What a great day we had, too!  I found myself today, not on my phone at all – because Soldier Boy is at work, my phone was tucked away while I kept tabs on Man Cub at a zoo laden with throngs of small children, many of whom seemed to be only a year or two older than Man Cub.  Apparently, it was preschool day at the zoo, and I hadn’t gotten the memo to avoid the place!

Upon arrival home, and after our family guests headed to their hotel for the evening, I hopped on my phone and browsed Facebook – I hadn’t even checked out my local news outlets.  My relaxed, happy mood dissipated, as I was faced with the horrific tragedy that has occurred in TN at the Armed Forces Recruiting station and the U.S. Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga.

I am heartbroken for the slain Marines, and for the family and friends they leave behind.  I did not know any of them, but the military is a small community, and we grieve the losses not just for our own family’s military branch, but for our sister-branches as well.

I also surprised myself when I realized I am saddened for the “terrorist” (my word, not the word of any politician or reporter).  This person chose evil over good – not that it should be a surprise…  It’s really easy to take the well worn path (evil and doing bad things), but that much harder to take the path less traveled (yes, that is a reference to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” poem), and pursue good.  I’m not going to condemn the soul of the terrorist because I am not God – I don’t know if he had a last-second conversion of heart before his death.  I will, however, condemn his actions as despicable and cowardly.  He preyed on unarmed service members – guys who show up to work on a daily basis, and do their duty to their country – a job less than 1% of our population commits to doing.  

I hope the family and friends of the fallen Marines know how absolutely special and heroic their marines were, not just to the individual family and friends, but to our country.  All service members pay tremendous personal sacrifices for the liberties and freedom of their civilian counterparts.  These 4 Marines did not go in to work today, expecting to not come home this evening.  They were unprepared for any attacks against them – they were sitting ducks – due to the policy of “no firearms allowed” similar to the horrific attack on our soldiers at Ft. Hood years back.  It is a shame that their lives were ended too soon for those of us left behind… left behind to wait and watch as events unfold.

And, quite honestly, I don’t want events and updates to unfold – frankly because I feel as though they will be bleak.  We will hear things about the gunman.  If history is any indicator, we will most likely hear what a “good guy” he was, and how nobody who knew him “could ever imagine he’d do such a thing.”  Because we hear that all too often with all those who are committing heinous crimes in this country.  That frustrates and angers me immensely.

So, as “events unfold,” it would be nice for the media to instead focus on the lives of these Marines.  It would be nice for the media to focus on the good the Marines did during their lives.  It would be nice for the media to focus on the benefits the Armed Services offer to the United States of America and her citizens.

Most of the men and women serving don’t do it for the glory or public prestige of knowing they are the minority of Americans willing to sign up and pledge to defend the United States.  Instead, the majority of them do it for the personal satisfaction of knowing they are standing beside their brothers and sisters in arms, doing their duty to keep their own family and loved ones safe.

Let us not allow this tragedy to continue to deepen the rifts that are growing, at a fast pace, in our country – the political rifts (the “right to bear arms vs. strict gun control policies,” the “political left versus the political right”), the religious rifts (Christian versus Muslim), the cultural rifts (Middle Eastern versus Black/African-American versus White/Caucasian).

Instead, let us focus on these Marines and their fellow service members, and allow this tragedy to grow us closer together – as a country who appreciates her protectors and defenders, and cares for its citizens.  Let us grow closer as individuals who care not just for our own families, but also for our neighbors that we accompany throughout our daily lives.  

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