Culture

A Former Marine’s Reaction To The Bin Laden Killing

It’s easy to lose track of the fact that thousands of lives were lost over the years due to the actions of Osama Bin Laden — from the people who were killed in the attacks on 9/11, to the troops who were dispatched far away from home in the subsequent wars that Bin Laden’s acts of terror sparked — the list could go on and on. My Warming Glow pal Matt Ufford was one of the many men and women sent overseas to fight as a result of Bin Laden’s efforts, and he shared his personal thoughts on what happened last night:

I learned of Osama Bin Laden’s death last night the same way I learn of all deaths: via Twitter. I turned on the TV, gleaned what information was available, and felt — for the first time since I became a writer — a complete and profound loss of words. Twitter and Facebook were exploding, but I closed them without typing a letter. I felt that I should be doing something to make the moment memorable: popping champagne, hugging loved ones, kissing strangers — but it was 11 o’clock on a Sunday night. My roommate was asleep. The only company I had was my dog.

I poured myself a bourbon and called my friends from the Marines, the men who’d commanded tanks with me on the way to Baghdad eight years ago … It was after midnight when I got off the phone and finally watched Obama’s speech. I was drunk and needed sleep but went out to a bar because Bin Laden was dead, goddammit. I was hoping for a party, a collection of firefighters and veterans toasting the fallen and celebrating long-sought closure. But there were no firefighters. No veterans. No closure. Just a handful of people drinking on a Sunday night. My only company was a Vietnam draft dodger. He had a wife, two grown daughters, and a bushy white beard that he’d had since he moved to the neighborhood 40 years ago, back when 7th Avenue was all head shops and dive bars. I asked the bartender for a Baker’s on the rocks but he misheard me and poured a Grey Goose. I drank it.

I stayed and talked to the guy with the white beard until last call because it beat drinking by myself and talking to my dog. It wasn’t fun or memorable, but at least I got drunk. At least I’m still alive. The same can’t be said for the three thousand people who died on 9/11 or the six thousand servicemen who’ve been killed in combat since then or the unfortunate people of Iraq and Afghanistan when war landed on their doorsteps. Not Brian McPhillips, who was shot in the head south of Baghdad in 2003. Not Andy Stern, whose last act was identifying and reporting an IED before it blew up and sent steel through his head. For the last eight years, I’ve been trying to attach some kind of meaning to all the death around me — to the deaths of my friends, and to the deaths that I caused. So much human life snuffed out: thousands upon thousands of dominos knocked over because of the actions of one man.

(Photo of a Marine in Afghanistan under fire via Boston.com)

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