-Churchville, NY — I’m catching up on some railfanning… I gather from some online friends a rare bit of power is moving through in the next hour or two. Too bad it’s raining this afternoon. The light is terrible for photo work.

Ah, well. At least I’m able to spend some time with my kids. My older boy in particular, is starting to get really sharp in his questions about life, and we’ve been talking today. One of the things we’ve been chatting about is the war in Iraq, and my thoughts on it. For one thing, he wanted to know what I had been thinking about the widely reported death of Pat Tillman. To explain that to him, I had to get into some detail on why we honor service to our country. It’s amazing how little of that is taught in schools anymore.

For those who don’t know, Tillman was an NFL player, and a pretty fair one at that. I don’t need to tell you NFL players haul in money by the plane load. Tillman turned it down, instead going into the Army. He was killed in action near the Pakistan/Afghan border on Thursday.

I do have a question: What rock have you been under?  No, don’t worry. I’m just commenting on the massive news coverage we’ve seen on this topic; the news media can’t get enough of it.

I told him I’d already written about all of it in my Blog.  We chatted for quite a while about it all. I expressed to him, as I had in my Blog the other day about my discomfort with the coverage Tillman’s death had gathered.

Don’t misunderstand; I have a small mountain of respect for Tillman. I have sympathy for his family, his loved ones, his buddies in the field. I refuse, however, to be caught in the trap of regarding the death of this one soldier as being of greater impact than the death of any other. I will not hold the service of this one to be unequal to any other that serves us true.

I can understand why the press thinks this a special case, I guess. For example, I cannot dispute that Tillman gave up greater financial wealth to put on the uniform of his country, than most soldiers do. Tillman, if glory was what he was about could easily have covered himself with a sort of personal glory by remaining in the NFL.  So, certainly, he wasn’t after the glory, as one I’ve written of elsewhere on this site for months now, would seem to have been. I don’t call THAT true service.

Perhaps some historical perspective will help me to make my paint clearer.

I had occasion, recently to see “The Glenn Miller Story” again, just recently, and am now struck by the parallels, as I have been in the past. Miller put on his uniform because he thought he could do some good in his country’s efforts against the Nazi threat. He ended up giving his life for his choice. Who knows where Miller’s music would have taken him, had he lived out his natural life, instead of ending up at the bottom of the English Channel.

Like Miller, Pat Tillman’s choice was about personal sacrifice, and of service… Service of an ideal he thought bigger than himself.

That kind of dedication is be cherished, certainly. But we must not allow ourselves to be swayed by the life position the soldier had, before he/she was a soldier, in our estimation of the value of that soldier.

Understand me clearly, please; The honoring of our vets has always held special meaning for me; it’s a lesson my parents instilled very well, indeed. It was brought home to me, as I was recently looking at pictures from a trip we made through the Gettysburg PA area some years ago.

It’s a particularly meaningful thing, when you’re standing on that field…. something that goes well beyond the cold facts and figures about who died from what company, how old they were, or even where they were from. It’s more a feeling you get…. you can sense it… not unlike being at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, or visiting Arlington National Cemetery. I’m told Omaha Beach, and Pearl Harbor and many other sites are the same way. I’ve been at the funerals of firemen and policemen who died in their line of duty, and that was also remarkably similar.

In each case, we’re dealing with places and concepts of death. But death alone doesn’t do it; doesn’t create that solemn atmosphere that is so unique to the above places. After all; there are lots of mass casualty accidents have happened over the centuries and their sites are well marked, and revered, or at least held apart, and yet, their impact doesn’t approach that of an Iwo Jima or a Pearl.

Even under the shelter of the relative safety of the time that has passed since the events, as you stand in each place, you can still feel it; Lives were lost there that were willingly (And in the case of the civilian deaths at the towers, unwillingly) sacrificed toward a higher ideal.

Our feelings and conclusions can be far different from what those lost experienced. Yet, their lives and their sacrifices still count for something. And the thing is, it doesn’t take much for us to out ourselves in their mindset.

Think of it this way; Every single man who died at Gettysburg, at Normandy, at Pearl and all he rest, and now in the Middle East, has meaning for us because each of them, had their own lives, just as we have our own lives.

These people loved, they laughed, they cried. They had a favorite food, a favorite color, a particular bit of music, or of poetry stirred their souls, like none other, just like we, ourselves. Every bit as much as you and I love our lives, they loved theirs. Their lives were as precious to them, as yours is to you. Their loss was as keenly felt by their loved ones as yours would yours. And yet, they gave their lives up, for something bigger.

I have a neighbor, whose father just recently needed a liver transplant. This neighbor willingly gave up part of his liver to be transplanted into his father. A noble action, certainly, commendable, and impressive. But with all respect to my neighbor, the choice to do that is comparatively easy to make. He knows and loves his father, and the sacrifice is fairly light by comparison.

How much more noble is a sacrifice of one’s life for people that one will never meet?

Well, the Pat Tillmans of the world, gave of themselves for the benefit of people they would never know…. you and I, and countless others from many nations. If not for their sacrifices, you’d not be reading this BIT, because I’d not have written it…. we’d be living in a very different world, possibly, one not nearly as good to us as it has been.

Look upon those actions, those sacrifices, and know what you’re seeing is strength, courage, and nobility in measures that should not… can not, be ignored. It must be honored by us all; it was made, after all for our benefit.

So how can we allow ourselves to be swayed by what position such people held prior to putting on the uniform of their country? Those things are simply not important. We must not allow that metric to guide us in the amount of respect shown them, be they living or dead after their service.

They’re all worthy of the very same respect, living or dead. Not because of their having lived or died, not because of the amounts of money or positions they gave up, or what impact they had on us when they weren’t wearing the uniform, but because of their respect and understanding of the ideals that uniform represents. Ideals they hold highest.

these are values I’ve been at some pains over the years to teach my boys as they grow up in this wonderful place called America. I fear that when and if we let these values pass away, America will, as well.

It is those ideals we should be holding high, as they did. We respect them not because they lived or died as a result of their service to our country, but because of the higher ideals they served.  We should hold them, ALL who serve us true, in our hearts.

And Tillman would be, I suppose, among the first to agree with my thought.

It should be pointed out that this respect is for those who serve us true, who hold to the ideas and ideals I’ve mentioned here.

I can think of one person in the public eye of late who has been making much political hay of his being in Vietnam… a time which by his own description, if not his admission, that his time did not amount to true service.  That’s a choice made when he threw his medals back. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about.

I want you to think between now and November on the points I’ve written of here.

If we as a people believe that such values as I’ve expressed here need to be held high, and thus reinforced, then we have no alternative but to react in the negative when such values are not held high by those trying to claim glory and or power, under false pretense. The American people should react accordingly to that lack of service to those ideals, with a solid and irrevocable rejection. The service and sacrifice by those who did hold those ideals high, demands no less.

Such a person, holding and exhibiting no honor of those ideas and ideas, has no place being Commander in Chief.