Monday, August 30, 2010

War, what's it good for?

I knew that coming to Fort Campbell would be a completely different experience than any of the other military posts we've been to. There is a Division here--the 101st Airborne Division--which means combat. And infantry. And death.

I knew this before we got here. I thought I was prepared for it.

I wasn't.

We've always been on installations where the jobs were, for the most part, highly specialized geek jobs. Linguists and Military Intelligence. Computer guys. Communications nerds. They got deployed, of course, but no one died.

But in a division, the soldiers with the geek jobs only exist to support the infantry. The fighters. Here, it's about combat, and people die in combat.

And every time I go on post, I'm surrounded by reminders. I go to buy milk, and I'm faced with the survivor outreach center across from the commissary. The flag seems to always be at half mast because soldiers from the division have died (56 just since the beginning of July). "In memory of" stickers on the backs of so, so many cars. Most of them are in memory of husbands and fathers.

And it's really gotten to me over the eight weeks we've lived here. I can finally understand why someone like Cindy Sheehan would go a little nuts and set up camp on George W's front lawn to protest the war(s).

You may have read the headlines yesterday that seven soldiers were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. Five were from here at Fort Campbell. And one of them was Captain Ellery Ray Wallace. And he was a husband and a father. And I knew him.

I didn't know him well. He was part of our church congregation, but he left shortly after we moved here. Really, the only time I spoke with him was at a pancake breakfast in late July. Amelia had fallen off a stage and he picked her up and made her laugh so she'd stop crying.

But his wife has become a friend. And I teach his oldest child in church. He's seven.

He has four children. And again, the oldest is seven. The youngest I don't think is even walking yet. She won't have any memory of her father.

His wife is 32 and she's a widow with four young children.

And she's living out my worst nightmare right now.

At church, the other kids in my class were scared. Most of them have fathers who are deployed, too. How do I tell them it will be O.K., when I don't know if it will? I can't promise them that a bomb won't go off under the vehicle their father is riding in, like it did for their friend's dad.

What do I tell my own kids who know that Will is headed to the same place in a few months?

Logically I know that Will, with his geek job, will be spending most of his deployment on a relatively safe base in an office playing computer games to pass the time. But fear isn't always logical, and let me tell you, I'm afraid.

Capt. Ellery R. Wallace

Capt. Ellery R. Wallace, 33, of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Pfc. Bryn T. Raver, 20, of Harrison, Ark., were killed Aug. 28, when their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-terrain vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Babur, Afghanistan.

Wallace was a Cavalry officer commanding Troop B., 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. He entered the Army in August 2003 and arrived at Fort Campbell in May 2009.

Wallace is survived by his wife, Janelle L. Wallace; and children Liam, Adara, Kael and Ehlana all of Clarksville, Tenn.; his father, Elton D.
Wallace; and mother, Elaine B. Wallace, both of Elkhart, Texas.

His awards and decorations include: Army Commendation Medal; Army Commendation Medal - Valor; Valorous Unit Award; National Defense Service Medal; Iraqi Campaign Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; and Combat Action Badge.

(Source: The Leaf Chronicle, Clarksville, TN)

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