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Of Rumsfeld and Requiem

Ashley Joppa-Hagemann was escorted out of the book signing by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. For what was described as a “minor disturbance” she was escorted out along with an leader of a Lakewood anti-war group.

When I first heard this, I assumed it was a typical, hyper-partisan code-pink kind of disruption. But having read more about this woman and her experience, I’ve been re-thinking my reaction.

Ashley is a war-widow. Her husband served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Ashley, her husband went to a training exercise, placed his loaded weapon to his head, and pulled the trigger to avoid serving another tour. Army investigations continue are on-going into his death.

I can understand (understand? Perhaps “imagine” is a better word) some of the difficulties the army faces in trying to deal with suicides. Ashley is a woman who lost the love of her life, and it’s understandable to want answers.

The stress and pressure of war can be overwhelming to the fiercest of warriors, and the military is struggling with how to aid those who return home struggling. I often urge listeners to support Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors, a local grassroots organization the aim of which is to aid those who come back wounded, mentally or physically. It’s heartbreaking that Joppa-Hagemann could lose her husband to the enemy AFTER he was out of their range of fire. I seem him as a fallen hero. It’s not the same as someone who falls in battle, but it’s not entirely different to me either.

Ashley appeared at the Rumsfeld event with the leader of a Lakewood anti-war group and expressed satisfaction for having called Rumsfeld a “liar” to his face. I found this sad. I wouldn’t argue that Donald Rumsfeld never made a mistake. All leaders do, and those propelled by events into war can make mistakes that cost lives. But I believe Rumsfeld was doing his best to serve the nation. The weight of decisions that costs lives would weigh heavy on any patriot, and I’m sure it pains Rumsfeld as well. The proceeds of his book go toward military causes, and he is a man of means who doesn’t need to spend his time promoting a book.

Suicide is a particularly difficult kind of death to accept. I can imagine the horror of trying to come to terms with it. While the anger toward Rumsfeld may seem satisfying, I doubt it will provide long-term solace because Rumsfeld’s not really responsible. It makes of ugly exploitation on the part of the anti-war group.

It seems to me that the pain of this woman was unnecessarily increased with what must have seemed like a posthumous condemnation of her husband when he was refused a military memorial service. I don’t know what, but it seems like something could be done to better handle these situations and remind loved ones left behind in this manner that their loss was also the nation’s.

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