"Brian visits the only other Bedford father who had lost a son in Iraq. On November 15, 2004, 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Travis R. Desiato, who grew up with John Hart, was searching for insurgents in a row of houses in Fallujah. He went through the door at the end of a hallway. Six insurgents opened fire. For the next several hours, fellow Marines fought room to room, sometimes face to face with insurgents, to recover his body and send it home to Bedford.
Travis’s father, Joe Desiato, meets with Brian in a small examining room of his pediatric practice. Brian wants to know whether the protective plates of Travis’s body armor had shattered when fired upon. One of Travis’s plates did shatter, his father says; but given the ferocity of the attack he doesn’t believe better body armor could have saved him.
The pediatrician says he respects Brian’s efforts to get the troops better armor, but prefers to deal with his own grief by reflecting on the valor of young soldiers willing to die for their country and one another. "I think Brian, in forcing the armor to the vehicles, has saved a number of people’s lives," he says. "But it becomes a very delicate tightrope of how to be an activist without making it political and using your son’s death as a tool to espouse your views and have anyone listen."" April Witt
As in Dreiser’s novel (and the movie) there is something particularly, poignantly American in this article.
Perhaps it is the will to trust displayed by the paratrooper’s parents, the will to believe that those who should do "the right thing" will do the right thing.
Perhaps it is the anger which the paratrooper’s parents felt against the pacifism of the Unitarian community of Bedford, an anger which transformed itself into a realization of belonging in Bedford after the son’s death.
Perhaps it is the unbending resolve of the paratrooper’s father to take action against the high and the mighty who have not "done the right thing." His son died of a bullet wound in the neck. Vehicular armor was not the issue but the father took up that fight nonetheless.
Perhaps it is the pediatrician who will not allow his son’s sacrifice and that of his comrades to be "appropriated" by the usual assortment of politicals for their advantage.
"..to recover his body.." The willingness of men to do this is a frequent occurrence in war. It always makes me aware of my own inadequacies. Long ago, a lieutenant colonel of my acquaintance made a serious mistake in the middle of a night time fire fight and died as a result one hundred yards outside the gate of the compound inhabited and defended by his command. He was not a popular man. He was not a very smart man. He was not a very good leader.
There were three attacks made across that open space the next day for the sole purpose of recovering his body. These were attacks made by groups of volunteers. Most of the officers had been killed the night before and groups of enlisted men decided that they were going to go out and bring in the "old man’s" body. They did so. There were four wounded. If I had been at that end of town, I would have stopped this recovery effort. I do not believe in sacrificing live men for dead ones.
It is a very tricky thing to start assigning blame for what happens in combat. It is less tricky to assign blame for bureaucratic inertia, lobbyists who don’t care about much of anything except contracts or a lack of the "vision thing" on the part of leaders who are expected to have vision.
For Christ’s sake (literally), why can’t a country that can build space stations, make body armor that is light, comprehensive, cooled in some way and impervious to small arms fire?