Widgets Magazine

Op-ed: Not another casket

I don’t ever want to salute another casket.

This was someone’s child. Lift up the flag, pop the coffin and you’ll find someone who was only days before dreaming, hoping and worrying about a future with distinct possibilities. Someone like you.

Why they joined is complicated: educational opportunities, to feed a family, to travel, to get away from family, to be independent, to belong to something greater, to buy a ring with an actual diamond, because there was nowhere else to go, because of food insecurity, for country, for selfish reasons, for the promise of a better life, for love, for life.

No one ever joins to die. His commander didn’t get up to the funeral lectern and tell us, this was how our brother hoped to come home, in a jigsaw box of human parts.

I digress. I want to see our sacrifices mean something again. And I need your help because — let’s be real here — there is no solution without you.

Do you know the name of any General overseeing Iraq or Afghanistan? Can you tell me how many troops are overseas? How about how many troops or civilians have died? Or who we are fighting besides ISIS? Do you even know what our war strategy is, or if there is one?

You have the luxury of others fighting your nation’s battles for you, unlike previous generations. You can say, not me — but someone in your red, white and blue family is fighting for you. They deserve to live as much as you do.

I’m not arguing for or against war. What I want to see is a population that demands answers for our sacrifices through voting and activism. Over 15 years of war and we‘ve been singing the same damn song, “Should I stay or should I go now?” How the hell does that not bother you? Since when did a “thank you for your service” absolve you of your duty to hold your politicians accountable? Instead, you’ve told our elected officials, anything goes so long as I don’t see the caskets.

I’ll tell you why you should care after Memorial Day. He was more than a casket. A psychologist and I were sent to treat his platoon for trauma. We went to his funeral in a dirty building under the hot Afghan Sun, where we heard from his friends and saw videos of him, and baby pictures, too. He goofed around so his friends could forget the war. And then someone called his name three times — to the beat, to the beat, to the beat — and he couldn’t answer. And when Taps played, I wiped my eyes because I couldn’t see. And later, his friend told us about the blood he couldn’t stop. And his friend was bent and shaking, questioning his palms, how could these hands fail my brother.

(But his friend did his best; did you ever try?)

And then I saluted enough caskets for a lifetime over the following months. And I wondered, which dies first, the person or their dreams? And can you please tell me what she died for?

—Saamon Legoski Social Class of ’16. These opinions aren’t endorsed by the United States Military. Legoski has supported veterans with posttraumatic stress on-and-off the battlefield, and is currently a fellow at Cal-EPA.