Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

Kaneohe marines
died for freedom

Due to the peculiar acoustical properties involving large bodies of water, the haunting sound of taps, played mournfully on a trumpet, travels at 10 o'clock nightly from the Kaneohe Marine Base two miles across the still waters of Kaneohe Bay and into my bedroom.

Taps is played to let Marines on base know "all is well" and it's time to hit the sack. But as I lay in bed on Thursday night and taps floated eerily through the screen door, I knew all was not well on the base. I had seen the headline in that morning's Star-Bulletin: "26 Kaneohe Marines die. Helicopter crash in Iraq also kills a Pearl Harbor Sailor." The Marines were helping prepare Iraq for its historic national election when their helicopter went down.

A day after the tragedy, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, the pathetic, bloated black sheep of both the Kennedy family and America in general, had the audacity to say in a speech, "U.S. military presence (in Iraq) has become part of the problem, not part of the solution."

How different can two sounds be? The sound of taps made me sad. The sound of Ted Kennedy made me sick.

And then I awoke on Sunday morning to see on TV Iraqis dancing in the streets. More than 8 million of them had defied the spineless Ted Kennedys of the world urging the election be postponed and terrorists threatening to make the streets run with voters' blood, and went to the polls in percentages higher than a typical Hawaii election.

Kennedy, whining that the American casualty rate is too high to justify us being in Iraq, urged immediate withdrawal of American troops. He knows something about immediate withdrawal in the face of casualties, having shown his bravery by abandoning a young woman to drown in a car he drove off a bridge in a little place called Chappaquiddick in 1969.

Seeing the Iraqis' elation at having voted in a true democratic election for the first time -- they were so ecstatic that some accidentally even thanked America for getting rid of Saddam Hussein -- raised the question, Was the death of 27 Hawaii troops worth it? Is the death of even one American worth bringing freedom to a part of the world where our country's contributions will never be acknowledged (as least as long as George W. Bush is president)?

The day our Marines died in Iraq, a 28-year-old Maui man was killed in car crash. And a day later, a 15-year-old Honolulu girl was killed driving a stolen car. And an Ohio worker killed his auto plant supervisor. Were those deaths "worth it"? Or worth anything? There are a lot of seemingly pointless deaths every day. About 42,000 people are killed every year in America in automobile accidents. More than 20,000 die from the common flu. Nearly 16,000 people are murdered. Ninety people are killed yearly by lightening. And in 1969 a 29-year-old blonde in Massachusetts was killed because a gutless U.S. senator drove her off a bridge and left her there. Those deaths don't seem to have accomplished anything, except to keep a certain hypocritical pompous toad politician from becoming president.

So, were the deaths of 26 Marines and a sailor from Hawaii "worth it"? Watching the Iraqis' expressions of pure joy following Sunday's election tell us the deaths were certainly worth something.

For the record, Ted Kennedy is wrong. The U.S. military isn't part of the problem in Iraq. It IS part of the solution. A major part of the solution.

And when I hear taps float into my bedroom tonight from the Marine base where I know a thousand hearts feel pain, I will know that 27 of my neighbors did not die in vain.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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