Gold Stars

By Mickey Friedman
November 12, 2017

God Bless those whose anger against Washington still brings their blood to a boil; whose hatred of Obama keeps them up at night. Who, every day, with undiminished yearning, live to see Hillary behinds bars.

They are the immune. Their resentment seems to inoculate them to the growing cancer that consumes civility.

Unfortunately for many of us, one bad White House week leads to a worse week. I’ve come to accept Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the podium, exasperated, trying her best to embody the saintliness she was taught in Sunday School, but searching, not for the smallest bit of truth that needs telling, but for an excuse to take out the peskiest of reporters. She, of course, the best example of a well-regulated militia, and the sanctified right to carry.

The week of Niger and The Botched Condolence Call brought me low. Still shocked by Presidential indecency. After the Access Hollywood tapes, John McCain, the Khan family, the merciless mocking of bedrock Republicans like Corker and Flake, still it hurt to see even General John Kelly, a fellow Gold Star sufferer, choose loyalty over integrity. How is it ever acceptable to fail families of our Special Forces at such a moment? Quarreling with the widow and close Congressional friend of Sgt. La David Johnson? Allowing the deaths of Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright to be eclipsed by a petty feud and wounded Presidential pride.

He bullies and demeans professional athletes who take a knee to proclaim allegiance to equal protection and treatment under the law, beating them over the head with hyper-inflated patriotism, pretending their protest disrespects those who have served, who serve, yet at the same time he abysmally fails the very real families of those who’ve lost their lives serving.

Has hypocrisy become so hard to spot?

In the midst of this despicable bickering about the deaths in Niger what’s lost is the enormous sacrifices made by those who serve – who WE send, regardless of our politics – and the sacrifices of those who love them. And so my thoughts are with some of those I know who have served or still do and those who care for them, for John, and Christa and Jeff, Anthony and Dana, Lindsay and Josie, for Rich, Steve, and Peter and Hildi.

I still remember John telling me when he first got back how few of his friends asked him about what his year in Iraq was really like … 

Here’s Dante Zappata, a member of Gold Star Families for Peace telling his story of Republican Congressman Walter Jones from N.C., he of the “freedom fries,” an early, enthusiastic supporter of the war:
“Jones has distinguished himself by actually paying attention to facts as the Bush administration’s arguments started to show cracks. 

“Jones started sending personal letters with handwritten words of condolences to the families of every soldier killed in Iraq. The hallways outside of his Capitol Hill office are lined with the faces of the fallen … One of those pictures in his hallway is of my brother, Sgt. Sherwood Baker. One of those letters he sent is on my living room table.

“Sherwood was killed in Baghdad last year. His death has kept my faith at the fore. That faith is challenged, quite honestly, when I hear the warmakers extolling their belief in Christ as their savior as they drop cluster bombs and commit other people’s children to the hell of war.

“Walter Jones could easily be considered one of “them” — a Christian conservative. I sat next to him in his office and quickly relearned how wrong it is to label a person. As a Christian myself, I understood immediately that his personal belief in Christ has been the basis of his actions. The most obvious aspect of our meeting was the authenticity of his humility …

“Tears have been easy for me to come by over the last 14 months since Sherwood died …” Dante Zappata told us.

Two Saturdays ago, I was out with my sign: “Support Our Troops – It’s Time To Come Home.” It was sunny and luckily I had my sunglasses. Two women came to ask what my sign said. When I turned it to them, one of them said to me “I agree. They should come home” and she paused, then said “My son died in Afghanistan …” I managed to say “I’m so sorry” and then said it again and she looked at me and said “We’re a Gold Star family … Do you know what that means?” And I said “I do” and she said “We just had a ceremony for him.” Then she said: “Thank you for what you’re doing …” and all I could manage was “My thoughts are with you” and for the rest of my demonstration tears were running down my cheeks …

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“Gold Stars” was first published in the October 26, 2017 edition of The Berkshire Record.

Mickey Friedman’s Berkshire-based I Ching mysteries, “Danger” and “Folly”, as well as his non-fiction “A Red Family” are available on Amazon.com. His films can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/user/bluehillfilms

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