The snare is beating slow and the pipes are wailing somewhere far away. A man I never met, but always read and respected, was killed in the Diyala province of Iraq yesterday. Major Andrew Olmsted was a member of a Military Training Team- the guys that eat and sleep in small teams among Iraqi troops as they groom them into professional soldiers. He and another member of his team, Captain Thomas Casey, were killed by small arms fire.
While in Iraq, he blogged at his own site, until the DOD found him in violation of policy. He moved to posting on the Rocky Mountain News website, which is where I found him many months ago. I looked up to him and respected him; I felt then, as I still feel, that the small training teams of which he was a part were essential to the conflict we were fighting. His last post was written months ago against his possible death, and has been posted at his old blog site and at Obsidian Wings, where he occasionally guest blogged.
I'll let his words finish out this post. From his last message to all of us and the world at large:
On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.
But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?
My feelings remind me very much of the words he wrote a couple of months ago about the memorial of another soldier in his squadron:
I had never met the soldier, but I found it very difficult to keep my eyes clear as I saluted a good man who had so much more to offer the world.
We are in a dangerous business. Soldiers die in war; there's no way around it. But that knowledge does not make those losses any less bitter.
Rest in peace, Major.
MAJ Andrew Olmsted
CPT Thomas Casey