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The Things They Carry: Heroes and Their Medals

By lisa savage - Posted on 18 February 2013


Another kid from Maine died in Afghanistan. 

Here's how my hometown paper reported it.


My paper, along with the papers of record in the state capital Augusta and in our state's largest city, Portland, is owned by S. Donald Sussman, the husband of our representative on the House Armed Service Committee, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
Source: Chellie Pingree's facebook page. I think this photo needs a few more flags, don't you?

Here we see Chellie in a photo op this week with another Maine veteran, Ruth Moore. Moore took 23 years to receive VA benefits after she was twice violently sexually assaulted by an officer, and her name has been borrowed for the bill Pingree is sponsoring to fast track VA benefits for the 1 in 3 women attacked during tours of duty, if they turn out to need them. Never mind The Invisible War. See how much your government cares about women in the military?

This is the same week as we found out that joystick killers going for the "bugsplat" kill by drone were going to get a special medal of their own. This news was moderately absurd, sounding like an Onion article from a time when drones were just hovering into view of the general public.

The most incredible part was that the medal would outrank other military decorations for valor in actual combat. This pissed off a lot of veterans and I'm sure active duty people also but they are not supposed to speak about it.

The same way that a teacher is told she is not supposed to speak out about about schools allowing recruiters to use the infrastructure paid for by taxpayers to deliver a captive audience of teens with low economic prospects. (Believe me, I know.)
Here's the caption that ran under the photo of the 31 year old man from Maine who died:

Staff Sgt. Eric Shaw, here in his dress uniform, had planned to be a history teacher after graduating from the University of Southern Maine, but he couldn’t find work and joined the Army instead.

Here's the article's conclusion, provided by his widow:

"My oldest told me she wants to be in the Army," she said, "because she wants to be a hero, like Daddy."

See how equal women are now?

What I would like to see is a pie chart displaying data on how many messages this soldier's young daughter has seen glorifying being in the military as compared with how many messages she has seen glorifying teaching history. Would that slice of the pie even be visible?

The article devoted 2,700 words to the story of how the young Maine father was posthumously decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross after he died protecting Afghan soldiers from the fire of insurgents on the border with Pakistan. Yup, it was really called Operation Strong Eagle (no scent of Onion here).

An officer named Tangen was excited by the special medal explaining he believed:

... the award will help Shaw's story be retold. 

"Some soldier, someday will be just like him because of what he did," he said. (emphasis mine) "You can't ask for really much more than that." 

For now, Audrey Shaw said she's keeping the cross in a trunk with her husband's other medals. She'll put it on display once her daughters are old enough that they won't take it down or try to color it. 

At least one of them, however, has already grasped the significance.

She'd have to be pretty thick to miss the significance wouldn't you say?

Maine is the state with the highest per capita death rate in Afghanistan. Why? Because a lot of people are out of work, that's why.

Average U.S. cost in 2010 of educating a K-12 student: $10,050.

Cost of 2011 military recruitment and advertising budget per high school student: $112.26

Cost of 2,700 word puff piece on a hometown hero and his medals: Priceless.


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