A year after Fort Sumter, the philosopher John Stuart Mill contributed a piece to Harper's Magazine entitled "The Contest in America." Army Maj. David Taylor, who was killed in action on Oct. 22, 2006, always carried a quotation from the essay with him; it was found in his effects after he died. Mill's argument: some things are worth dying for. "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things," Mill wrote. "A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for ... is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
What emerges from the following pages is the sense that the fallen are better men, and women. "We are really fine so long as we have each other over here," Ballard wrote home, and he meant it. Nations go to war over ideas and politics, but minds can change and politics may shift. By their very nature, matters of state are fluid and inconstant. What is constant in war is the humanity of the warrior, and the pain of those left behind, who reach for hands they can no longer touch and listen for voices they can no longer hear, except in the words you are about to read.
From Newsweek, If You Are Reading This...
Email from Major Mike Mundell:
It's busy. We had a midnite and later mission that I cant talk about last nite and I am always doing something. I have to admit, I LIKE this... not as if I were at home with my family, but this is the most intense, most REAL thing I have ever done in my life. The Jundees (IA privates) look to us as if we were heroes come to save them and most of the officers are so pathetically grateful for anything we do to help (except MY counterpart, who is more interested in how many wives I have than learning tactics). They really want to do right and I think this year will be worth all of the pain it is causing me to be away from all of you.
I miss all of you. And no, Mark, Joe and all the rest of you perverts, I did NOT pee my pants under fire. Not yet, anyway.