We woke up this morning with images on cable news and the Internet of President Obama solemnly saluting as the casket of a fallen soldier was carried in honor from a C-17 in Dover back home into the United States. The president, through his visit, brought a national spotlight onto the grimmest reality of the war in Afghanistan.
This return would've otherwise gone without much notice just like the thousands before it. The images of America's troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in caskets have been few and far between in the eight years since the wars began. That fact has too often created distance between the American people and the military families who carry their grief.
President Obama didn't have to go to Dover. George W. Bush never went we're told. Obama could've stayed back at the White House and kept some distance from the war--almost suggesting it is the responsibility of the former president. But instead he chose to put himself firmly in front as the Commander in Chief. He chose to create an image that will likely endure through his presidency and as part of his legacy. What a dramatic contrast to images from the last presidency of George W. Bush flying over Katrina or "Mission Accomplished" day.
Unfortunately, although it is only a few hours since the president returned from Dover, we should expect that the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks of the world will start whining about the president's visit accusing him of exploiting the event. Their script is so predictable that I can write this just after 9 AM with confidence that they'll do it. But our president should always be reminding the American people of the sacrifice our troops make.
As of a few days ago October has been the deadliest month yet for the war in Afghanistan--with 54 American soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice.
No matter what your political views are or your position on the wars, we should never forget those making the ultimate sacrifice.
Mr. President, thank you for reminding all of us.
UPDATE: Sure enough, on cue, here come the right-wing critics. Liz Cheney claims that Bush would "do it without cameras." CBS's Mark Knoller, who is something of an official record-keeper of presidential activity, refutes her claim reporting that President Bush never went to Dover. My point isn't whether or not President Bush went. My point is that going, and going with cameras, is the RIGHT thing to do both to remind America of the sacrifice and to role-model a way to honor the troops.