I found this story on the front page of our local paper this morning:
The March 2003 image became one of the most iconic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq: that of a bespectacled American soldier carrying an Iraqi child to safety. The photograph of Army Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, who was raised in Mount Sinai, was used by news outlets around the world.
After being lionized by many as the human face of the U.S. effort to rebuild a troubled Iraq, Dwyer brought the battlefield home with him, often grappling violently with delusions that he was being hunted by Iraqi killers.
His internal terror got so bad that, in 2005, he shot up his El Paso, Texas, apartment and held police at bay for three hours with a 9-mm handgun, believing Iraqis were trying to get in.
Last month, on June 28, police in Pinehurst, N.C., who responded to Dwyer's home, said the 31-year-old collapsed and died after abusing a computer cleaner aerosol. Dwyer had moved to North Carolina after living in Texas.
Dwyer, who joined the Army two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and who was assigned to a unit of the 3rd Infantry Division that one officer called "the tip of the tip of the spear" in the first days of the U.S. invasion, had since then battled depression, sleeplessness and other anxieties that military doctors eventually attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The war that made him a hero at 26 haunted him to the last moments of his life.
War is Hell.
I've always said I am against war. I've also always said sometimes war is the only option. The fact that Pfc Dwyer suffered from PTSD (or maybe just paranoid schizophrenia) has nothing to do with whether the war in Iraq is right or wrong.
There have been, and there will be many more stories like this one. Most will be printed as an indictment against the Bush administration and it's policies. I will agree that mistakes were made in the prosecution of the current war on terror. We should have taken a much more aggressive strategy. We should have put an adequate number of troops on the ground from the beginning. We should have started "the surge" on day one.
Well, no one is an expert in war.
The story of Joseph Dwyer describes an unfortunate by-product of the terrors of war in general. And many will point to this as proof that the war we are currently engaged in is an immoral and unnecessary conflict.
But remember this:
The terrors that Pfc Dwyer experienced in Iraq came not from our involvement over there but from the terrorists who target innocent civilians in their misguided quest to convert the entire world to their obscene murderous concept of religion. It is because of terrorism our soldiers are there. We are there to protect the innocents who otherwise would be left to fend for themselves against an enemy determined to wipe out everyone who doesn't believe.
We do not attack innocent civilians. We do not murder innocent men, women, and children with bombs devised wholly to maim, kill, and destroy lives. Our enemies do that. We are there to prevent it from happening if we can.
If not for Pfc Joseph Dwyer and all those others who have volunteered to protect and defend freedom all over the world, there would be thousands more deaths in Iraq, and indeed, the rest of the world.
Pfc Dwyer is a hero. He is the human face of the U.S. effort to rebuild a troubled Iraq. The death of Pfc Joseph Dwyer is not a propaganda tool of the anti-war left in this country.
It is a tragic reminder that all war, even a war fought with righteous intent, is still Hell.
We must continue the fight, regardless of the short and long term repercussions associated with the horrors of the war. Terrorism cannot be allowed to win.
For the innocent victim's sake. For our Country's sake. For the world's sake.
For Pfc Joseph Dwyer's sake.