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Up Close and Personal

The numbers are mounting. Over thirty American servicemen lost their lives last week in the war in Iraq EXCLUSIVE of the helicopter that was shot down.

The total number of deaths since Bush's declaration that combat was essentially over has risen to a point higher than the number of deaths during the combat phase of the war.

The state of Washington now has more young men and women deployed in combat roles than anytime since World War II: that's right, more young men and women have been called up in this state for Iraq than went to Vietnam.

And yet, in the end, these are just numbers; statistics meant to define a situation.

You know, what's it really mean? A couple a hundred lives don't really mean squat in the big scheme of things, now do they? I mean we hear bigger numbers all the time. "Airline crashes, all three hundred passengers dead."

This morning I was engaged in my morning ritual of coffee and a cigarette with my boss before we really start to get into the day. Tom's a sweet guy. I figure he's in his mid-sixties or thereabouts and has the slight frame salt-and-pepper hair that seem typical in a lifelong, unrepentant smoker. He can turn into a tornado if so provoked, but it's a small tornado and not prone to be taken seriously. You watch his rants and raves and listen to his flustered, slightly high-pitched voice and suppress a giggle. It's kind of cute.

Well, Tom's son is recently engaged--last year some time--to a wonderful young lady who simply adores both Tom and Tom's son. She has become part of the family long before the "I do"'s and I've seen the effect she's had on Tom--he divorced after twenty-seven years and has no female influence in his life--and it's been good for everyone involved.

Part of the reason Tom and his future daughter-in-law have become so close is that Tom's son is a member of the Army Reserves. Yes, he's in Iraq. Been there since just after the beginning.

Tom was sick yesterday. He didn't come into work. Said something about car troubles.

This morning, Tom told me that his son is stationed about a hundred klicks from Bagdhad. He's part of a helicopter squadron that ferries troops in and out of the city. His son had flown the very same route as the helicopter that was shot down just the day before.

He'll do it again this week.

Car trouble indeed.

These aren't just numbers folks. These are our friends, our families, our husband and sons and daughters and mothers and wives and aunts and uncles and neighbors and they are sitting in a desert with the most sophisticated of military equipment and being killed, one by one, by people with the equivelant of sling-shot steelies guided by Allah.

The headline reads, "Twelve Americans killed as helicopter shot down by Iraqi rebels."

Have you ever seen a burned body? Have you ever seen a burned body hacked to pieces by helicopter blades? Have you ever seen an exit wound the size of your fist which leaves nothing but a chucky hole of bloody flesh mixed with clear, oozing fluid?

Could you imagine that as your son? Your husband?

Numbers are only that.

We kill. We die. We invade. We're invaded.

We excercize our God-given rights, but let's just hope that we're not infringing on someone else's Allah-given rights. We have to protect our country. They have to protect their country.

Why is it with all this protection, no one is safe?

Not even you.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss.

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