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Chicago Tribune

For Their Country; A Soldier's Sacrifice: Let It Be Worth It

By E.W. Chamberlain III.

November 9, 2003
Copyright ©2003
Chicago Tribune. All rights reserved.

While my dad was in Vietnam the second time, I came home from high school one afternoon and my mother was in her bed crying. I rushed into her room and frantically asked her whether my father had been killed, which is something you think about every day when your dad is in combat. My mother couldn't answer me but just shook her head no, it wasn't my father.

But I was not relieved because if it was not my father, it had to be somebody else's father. My mother finally managed to tell me the name of the soldier who had been killed. He was a battalion commander just like my father, and his children were our good friends and neighbors a few doors down.

I was numb with shock and a feeling of gut-wrenching dread. I had never known anybody young who had lost a parent before. I mean, my grandfather had died the year before, but he wasn't in combat and he was in his 60s (an incredibly old age at the time to me). I knew older people died, and I worried constantly about my dad the first time he went to Vietnam, but I had never known anybody who actually died in combat. On my father's first tour, he was an adviser, and we were not part of an "Army family" on a large Army post when he was gone that time.

This time, everybody's father was over there together, and we all knew each other. We lived by each other, went to school together and suffered the anxiety of the uncertainties of war together.

I became more familiar with death, unfortunately, over my four years at the military academy and 30 years in the Army, but at the time it was as if the world had ended. And the truth is that, every time it happens, the world does end.

I did not even begin to realize just how much the world had ended for the fallen soldier's five daughters. I walked down to their house to see what I could do to help even though I felt absolutely helpless, and I learned that I could do nothing to help. Those five little girls were sitting on the steps to their house crying their eyes out. That level of pain and grief has no ending. It goes on forever, like a ripple in the water. That soldier's death had five ripples right there. It had another ripple with his wife, and more with his parents and more with his friends, and more with his fellow soldiers and so on to the count of thousands. Some of those ripples are still around today because those five little girls will never forget. As you look at the pictures in this section, think about the ripples, because each one has an infinite set.

I have lost soldiers in peace and war in my years in the infantry, and it never gets easier. It gets harder. The words below are how I feel; I know our lost soldiers would too.

And none of us thought we were going to die when we signed up, but some of us did.

And all we ever ask is that it be worth it.

That we died is sometimes our lot as soldiers.

And all we ever ask is that it be worth it.

And we regret we have caused ripples of pain and grief to those we loved by our passing.

And all we ever ask is that it be worth it; that the Nation needed us to do our duty.

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