People sometimes tell us in emails that we don't know much about military matters. That's true. But we have readers who do. This morning, the father of a Marine who is a special operations team leader wrote to offer his thoughts on the "autopen" controversy:If [our son] had been killed, we would have been first informed by a visit - in dress blues - from a condolence team typically consisting of two Marines and one Navy Chaplain. We know many families who've received that knock on the door. No letter is required. No words are required. A simple peek thru the view hole in the door and the sight of dress blue blouses, white covers and white gloves tells you all you ever need to know. A letter of condolence from the SecDef is, honestly, not even worth opening. Families are much more interested in hearing from the men who served with their son and from their families. We share the constant knowledge and fear that it could be our door bell being rung. Sec. Rumsfeld doesn't know our son. He's a Lance Corporal. He directs a machine gun team. He is a vital link in the line that protects our way of life. He doesn't fight for his country, he doesn't fight for the SecDef, he doesn't even fight for his mom and dad. He fights for the guys on either side of him and for his team. He fights to secure his objective of the moment, which he may or may not understand or agree with. Sec Rumsfeld doesn't need to take time from his day to sign a form letter of condolence and he certainly doesn't need to take time to figure out what the LCpl was doing when he was killed or what kind of a man he was. His job is to make sure the LCpl didn't die in vain and that only as few LCpl's as possible will have to die to end this war in a successful manner.
Don't get me wrong, we would appreciate the condolence letter from the SecDef, as well as one from the White House and from our Senator and Representative, from the Mayor and Governor. But none would bring back our son. And they are all form letters, signatures be damned. A letter from his 1stSgt, from the men we know in his unit would be a treasure and a comfort.
I don't know what happens in other branches, or even other units. But in 2/4, I know the 1stSgt's personally contact the surviving family with letters, emails and phone calls of condolence.
By the way, we know families of fallen Marines who've been flown to sites where President Bush was speaking. He met with them privately after his event, never any press coverage, and the families have said that - after being given an agenda for their time with the President and being told that he's on a very tight schedule - Mr. Bush talked to every family member as long as they wanted to talk, never hurried anyone, cried with family, hugged everyone and they all felt like he had nothing else to do for the rest of the day but bring comfort to them. For that, George W. Bush has my eternal respect and gratitude. And there was NEVER one word of publicity surrounding any of these meetings with families. (I have pictures to dissuade doubters.)
Bottom line, we support Sec Rumsfeld. The people who are making a big deal about this have their heads up their collective a****. They need to have a serious priority check on what people in positions of responsibility should be doing with their time. They should also chat with some military families if they could figure out how to contact them.