No one is good at casualty calls


November 8, 2017

Saturday is Veterans Day. When the flag passes you at the parade, stand and salute or place your right hand over your heart. Thank you.

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Since you know a lot of the folks who live in Curry County, you need to get the newspaper from a large metropolitan era anywhere in the country and start reading the obituary column. You’ll be reading about the death of folks you don’t know and have never met.

When you find some young adult who died tragically, think about how you would call the mother or father of that deceased young person to console them. Remember, these are folks you don’t know and have never met.

My point in writing this is to remind you that casualty calls are dismal at best.

In recent years presidents have personally called the next of kin of service members killed in combat. Both President Bushes, 41 and 43 made these calls and so did President Obama. Now this burden falls to our current president, Donald J. Trump. Some will perform this duty better than others, but no one becomes “good at it” and nobody ever looks forward to it.

If you worked your way through the thought experiment above, you have some idea of what a commander faces. Every combatant commander has made casualty calls. Gen. Jim Mattis, our secretary of state, has made them; Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, had to make one to his friend Gen. John Kelly when Kelly’s son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Dunford told Kelly, “Kel, he was doing what he wanted to do; he knew what he was getting into when he joined the Marines.”

Gen. Kelly, White House chief of staff, has made these calls and been the recipient of one. So it was only natural that President Trump would seek advice from Kelly when faced with the prospect of performing this difficult duty. What Kelly tried to do was provide the president with some sense of what it was like from both sides of the coin.

This has resulted in the condemnation of both Kelly and Trump from the press. One of the vilest was the article by Masha Gessen in “The New Yorker” that began with, “The press briefing with John Kelly could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like.”

Remember when it was forbidden to speak badly about a Gold Star parent?

Did any U.S. representative listen in on the casualty calls from Presidents Bush or from President Obama? No, of course not.

Rube Render is the Curry County Republican chairman. Contact him at: [email protected]


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