Very few civilians know the pain of loss of a son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother or brother or sister to war.
The vast majority of those who do not know that pain also struggle to communicate their sympathy and their sorrow for the loss of the loved ones.
Almost 10 years after the Afghanistan war began, the country awoke to the awful news of a U.S. helicopter shot down with 30 Americans aboard — 22 of them from SEAL Team 6.
Thousands of families have had to accept these dark tidings over the past decade, and our country has generally responded with comfort and kindness as the families themselves have endured and honored their dead with extraordinary courage and determination.
This blow has few parallels except Sept. 11 itself and the horrible day in Beirut in October 1983 when 241 servicemen were murdered by the bombing of the Marine barracks there.
Because this Navy SEAL team had so recently done the world such a service by killing Osama bin Laden, and because they have come to represent courage and selflessness, the shock of their loss is matched only by the resolve of their brothers in arms.
The Washington Post reported on concerns “voiced by senior U.S. officials” over “the impact of the loss on the American public’s psyche and support for the increasingly unpopular conflict.”
Perhaps some will react in that fashion, but most will simply mourn, and ask how they can help comfort the families of the fallen and encourage those who remain on the front lines of the war.
For the former purpose, there is the Navy SEAL Foundation (nswfoundation.org) and the United Warrior Survivor Foundation (frogfriends.com).
For the latter, simple recognition of the incredible sacrifice borne by so few for so many will serve.
When Abraham Lincoln was called upon to dedicate the cemetery at Gettysburg in November 1863, his sorrow as commander in chief mixed with his deep certainty of the justice of the cause he led. “It is for us the living,” Lincoln declared, “to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
As the nation mourns its loss, just as it has the losses of 10 years of a war it did not choose and which it cannot avoid, the greatest thing that civilians can do is remember that their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren are what they are because of warriors flying through mountain passes half a world away.
Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.