"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

1stLt Jared Landaker

I'm finally back from two weeks of predeployment prep in the desert sands of Arizona. Part of our classroom training was an analysis of many of the helicopter shoot-downs the Army and Marines have experienced over there recently. One that was discussed again and again was the downing of a Marine CH-46E by a surface-to-air missile; our instructors - and the media before them, back in February - went over it in such detail because it was one of the few that actually had documentation (from the insurgent point of view) and the means - the SAM - is one that makes all low-flying pilots nervous. SAMs are fast, their launch is incredibly hard to detect, and you have only a few seconds to react before impact. It's not easy having your worst fears played out in front of you and dissected. It's also not easy when you knew one of the pilots who was behind the stick when the bad guys pulled the trigger.

I only bring this up because I'm afraid that the pilot will simply become another statistic (or for those in uniform, a case study). So I hope he's remembered as more than the 3XXX serviceman killed in Iraq. 1stLt Jared Landaker was one of my roommates during the six months of misery known as The Basic School. His attitude is what I remember the most. Nothing got to him. Whether we were freezing or sweating off half our body weight (occasionally at the same time), he never turned into one of those guys who decides to take his discomfort out on everyone else. That sort of pettiness quickly showed you who were the leaders and who were the hacks. Jared was one of the leaders. He was always positive, and while he was never shy of letting you know how much sleeping in a dirt hole that got rained on four nights straight sucked, he never let the crap take him down. We were on different schedules through flight school, and I lost track of him after we got our wings and went on to learn our specific airframes. I knew he was in a 46 squadron in Pendleton, but his unit was deployed before I got out to the West Coast. Another pilot from our old TBS platoon called me after it happened, but didn't give any details; like so many, I got most of the story from CNN. He was shot down on a CASEVAC flight, doing the most important thing a Marine can do: helping other Marines.

Not sure where I'm rambling with this, but I have a couple more random thoughts. My wife got this
article forwarded to her and showed it to me when I got back yesterday, which I suppose is another reason why I'm on this. It's a moving piece in many ways, not least of which is that the Marines do right by other Marines, especially when they've fallen. I also wanted to include this piece, to give you a little more insight into the man's character. He was a good guy, a great Marine, and a selfless American. This nation is lessened by his loss.

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