Daily News/James Gordon Meek—He didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t have to.
President Obama simply stuck out his hand and asked for my name as he stepped toward me amid a bone-chilling drizzle in the Gardens of Stone.
This was Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. I wasn’t there as a reporter, but to visit some friends and family buried there when Obama made an unscheduled stop – a rare presidential walk among what Lincoln called America’s “honored dead” – after laying a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.What I got was an unexpected look into the eyes of a man who intertwined his roles as commander in chief and consoler in chief on a solemn day filled with remembrance and respect for sacrifices made – and sacrifices yet to be made.
I’m sure the cynics will assume this was just another Obama photoop.
If they’d been standing in my boots looking him in the eye, they would have surely choked on their bile.
His presence in Section 60 convinced me that he now carries the heavy burden of command.
I had stopped at Arlington to see the resting place of Ken Taylor, Ed Lenard and Dave Sharrett. Ken and Ed survived their service, in World War II and Korea, and died as old men. Dave did not leave Iraq alive. He was 27.
Obama arrived just before noon at the serene Section 60, where many of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried together – and where many more heroes will undoubtedly be laid to rest before this President leaves office.
It’s a section typically bustling with those visiting loved ones. Every time I go there, more and more graves have been dug into the earth.
The President and First Lady Michelle Obama emerged from their armored limousine hatless in the frigid downpour and took a slow stroll into the soggy rows of white marble headstones.
They stopped first at the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Ross McGinnis, an Army private who threw himself on a grenade in Iraq three years ago to save four buddies.
A sad-faced woman reached for Obama’s hand and pointed him to a nearby plot.
The face of another woman – who had grimly sat in a folding chair for hours next to a headstone she’d arranged flowers around – suddenly broadened into a smile as she stood to embrace Obama and thank him for paying his respects.
She was so overcome with emotion that a soldier from the Army’s Old Guard had to console her afterward.The President patted backs of a dozen other Gold Star relatives and troops visiting buddies now in the ground.
He gave hugs. He shook wet, chilly hands. He wanted to know something about each fallen warrior.
He began to slowly trudge back toward the motorcade – and to another White House huddle with his war council, which is advising him whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops into harm’s way in Afghanistan.
And then Obama noticed a tall, bearded figure. He probably didn’t see the mud-caked combat boots I trudged around Afghanistan in a few years ago.
“What’s your name?” a somber President asked as he extended his hand.
“James Meek, sir,” I replied, struggling to pull off my wool glove and pull my hood back from my head. “I’m here visiting a friend, Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, who was killed in Iraq last year.”
Tag Archives: Arlington
Posted by Audiegrl
Watching the horrific events at Fort Hood unfold yesterday, it saddens me to admit that one of the first things that came to my mind, once the shooter was identified, was “oh no, what is the right-wing going to do with this?” Today, after seeing some fair and some not so fair coverage of the Fort Hood Massacre, it reminded me of what General Colin Powell said on Meet the Press in October of last year. When asked by host, Tom Brokaw whether he was prepared to announce whether he was endorsing John McCain or Barack Obama, Powell answered with a very long explanation on how he came to the decision to endorse Barack Obama for president and how he felt about the recent actions of the GOP. Towards the end of his answer, he said something that needs to be said again and again, regarding some of the countries reaction to the events at Fort Hood.
I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.~~Colin Powell
His words were important last year, but even more so relevant today. The following are two a thoughtful pieces written by Kamran Pasha and Jon Soltz.
A Muslim Soldier’s View from Fort Hood
Kamran Pasha—Major Nidal Malik Hasan is a murderer and has brought great shame upon every American Muslim in the armed forces.
There are currently over 10,000 Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military, men and women who are patriotic and love their country and their fellow service members. Hasan’s evil actions, the murder of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, have now brought those honorable soldiers’ loyalties into question.
The Islamophobe community on the Internet is trumpeting how Hasan’s behavior is reflective of the threat Americans face from their Muslim neighbors, and how radical Islamists have infiltrated the ranks of our military. Calls for purging the military, and perhaps even the United States, of its Muslim members have already begun.
Today there are dozens of families mourning the attack on their loved ones by a fellow-in-arms. And there are hundreds of Muslims at Fort Hood who knew Hasan and are stunned that he would betray their country and their community with such cold, calculated ease. Hasan’s rampage has truly shattered many more lives than we can begin to imagine.
I spoke today with a friend who is a Muslim soldier stationed at Fort Hood. He is a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army and a recent convert to Islam. He agreed to share his perspective with me if I granted him anonymity. So we will call him Richard.
Richard is exactly the kind of soldier we need to protect our country from those that seek to do us harm. A combat veteran who has served in Iraq, Richard became interested in studying Islam initially as a strategic means of understanding his adversary in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. But as he began to study the religion’s teachings, he became struck by how different they were from what was being claimed by men like Osama Bin Laden.
Kamran Pasha is a Hollywood filmmaker and author of “Mother of the Believers”
Many Issues With Tragedy at Ft. Hood — A “Muslim Problem” not One of Them, FOX News
Jon Soltz—Yesterday was one of the most tragic days in the military, in the midst of a slew of tragic days as we continue to see casualties in Afghanistan. Innocent soldiers lost their lives, and many more were injured, at the hands of a very troubled Major at Ft. Hood. Our hearts go out to all those who lost their lives, their families, and those wounded.
Like many, I’m angry and confused, as well, at how this could possibly happen. But, until the facts are all known, I won’t jump to conclusions, or cast aspersions at a large group of Americans, like the disgraceful hosts of FOX and Friends.
During an interview with Geraldo Rivera, the FOX and Friends hosts twice implied that this is some kind of Muslim problem. Of course, they didn’t come out and say it outright, they couched it in the form of a question, like FOX News can be so good at. You know, like their teasers, “President Obama. Does He Hate America?”
Brian Kilmeade asked if it’s time to have “special debriefings” or “special screenings” of all Muslims in the military. Because, as he said, “If I’m gonna be deployed in a foxhole, if I’m gonna be deployed in an outpost, I’m gonna want to know that the guy next to me isn’t gonna want to kill me.”
Perhaps sensing that they were not being offensive enough, Gretchen Carlson chimed in, “Could it be that our own military is so politically correct right now…to be careful about treatment of Muslims that they would have allowed this to go by?”
Jon Stoltz is the Co-Founder of VoteVets.org, served as a Captain in Operation Iraqi Freedom
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Fort Hood Shooting: Muslim Groups Fear Backlash
Don’t Ask Me About Hasan
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: Senseless Shootings Violate Islamic Faith
Wajahat Ali: The Fort Hood Tragedy: Fanning the Anti-Muslim Hysteria
Right-Wing Media Respond To Fort Hood Shooting By Attacking Muslims
“Fox And Friends” Hosts Worry That Military Needs “Special Debriefings” For Muslims
Allen West, GOP Candidate: Ft. Hood Shows “Terrorists Are Infiltrating Military“
WND’s Jerome Corsi Claims Fort Hood Shooter Advised Obama