Doane: Living With Risk

Print More

Commentator Larry Doane is a US Army veteran with tours in Iraq and
Afghanistan.  The recent shooting down of a U.S. helicopter in
Afghanistan has reminded him of the risk that is part of life in the

(DOANE) None of us are indestructible and, but for
the grace of God, that could have been my Chinook going down in some
Afghan valley. Instead, it was 30 other American warriors, from units
as diverse as the Army Reserve to SEAL Team 6. And it was one of the
most primitive weapons on the battlefield that ended their flight.
The rocket propelled grenade is one of the most ubiquitous weapons in
the world and has little more guidance than an overgrown bottle
rocket. Given that it was fired by a Taliban fighter with likely
little formal training, a simple question arises. How could such a
primitive weapon have defeated a platoon of some of the most elite
warriors on the planet? And the answer is just as simple. War is
What I mean by that statement is that war is the
most capricious of environments. It cares little for fairness or
justice. Who lives and dies rarely makes any sense or follows any
discernible pattern. Skill and training can tilt the deck in one
direction, but nothing can make you immune from the fortunes, or
misfortunes, of war. Instead, warriors go about their business
everyday knowing that, even despite their best efforts, this day may
be their last. Learning to live with this uncertainty is part of the
job, and just may be the defining characteristic of the professional
We Americans take such pride in our military
men and women. We build them up in our collective imaginations as
indefatigable, exacting in their craft and unwavering in their
duties. And well do they deserve this reputation. In the wake of the
dramatic raid of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, the members of SEAL
Team 6 became even more legendary in our minds. Equipped with best
equipment America could provide and trained to a razor’s edge, they
were supermen, capable of the impossible. But it would be unfair, and
even tragic, to believe this to be the truth. Beneath it all, under
the body armor and sophisticated equipment is not an indestructible
figure, but a human, just the same as you and me. And this is what
makes them truly heroic. America’s warriors, even her most elite,
go into battle knowing full well the uncertainty and the danger of
their task. They know they are mortal and not the celluloid heroes of
our Hollywood imaginations. But they do it anyway, even against long
odds and poor conditions, because a nation counts on them to
I’ve been on the tarmac when the call comes
in for help. And I know what it’s like to pile into a helicopter
and rush off to aid a fellow unit. With scant thought for their own
safety, those thirty Americans flew to the aid of their comrades,
under fire in a valley far from home. I know that as they flew, their
thoughts were not about their own safety, but prayers for enough
speed to arrive in time. And, as their helicopter slowed for a
landing that would never come, they died as they lived, forever
moving to the sound of the guns, and never turning away.


Comments are closed.