1000 Points of Light
September 11, 2004
By Steven Vincent
"I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the
community organizations that are spread like stars throughout
the Nation, doing good. I will go to the people and the programs
that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member
of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again
because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice,
commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking
part and pitching in."
George H. W. Bush, 1988
H. W. Bush put forward an idea in 1988, based on the phrase "a thousand
points of light," encouraging individual contribution to society.
Sixteen years later we have another Bush in the White House who
has contributed another 1000 points of light to our society. These
1000 points of light are shining tonight on the families; mothers,
fathers, spouses, children, siblings and friends of those who mourn
the death of a service member killed in the Iraq war.
1000 military men and women killed in combat, by friendly fire,
by helicopter crashes, by vehicle accidents, by small arms fire,
by suicide bombers and roadside bombs. 1000 people who will never
spend another day with the ones they love, celebrate birthdays,
anniversaries, graduations or holidays. 1000 people who won't get
a chance to vote in the upcoming election. They died in different
places and different times. The first died on March 20, 2003:
Maj. Jay Thomas Aubin, 36, of Waterville, Maine
Capt. Ryan Anthony Beaupre, 30, of Bloomington, Illinois
Cpl. Brian Matthew Kennedy, 25, of Houston, Texas
Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Watersbey, 29, of Baltimore, Maryland
The 1000th died this week:
BAGHDADOne U.S. Soldier was killed in action at 12:19
p.m. today, when a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol was
attacked by small arms fire in the western part of the city.
The Soldier was assigned to the 89th Military Police Brigade. The
name of the deceased was being withheld pending next of kin notification
Many conservatives say 1000 troops lost is a small, almost insignificant
number. I would argue that one lost in an unnecessary war is too
many. We lost over fifty thousand in Vietnam and hundreds of thousands
in the World Wars, they reply. What is 1000?
Half of all the cities, townships, boroughs, villages and towns
in the United States have populations under 1000. Half. Imagine
the entire population of any one of 30,000 towns in the United States
being gone, the town empty and desolate. That is 1000.
Most of the high schools in this country have total enrollment
of less than 1000. Imagine losing every student, staff and faculty
member in a large urban high school dead.
To put it in military terminology 1000 is:
1 full Regiment
One full Regiment of service men and women lost. Those losses have
to be made up, and the military under the command of President Bush
is making hard decisions. Decisions to pull 5600 men and women out
of the Individual Ready Reserves. People who had served their time
and, in many cases, had returned to civilian lives and jobs for
many years. Even that may not be enough to stem the tide of losses.
Some have suggested a draft may be necessary to replenish a worn
and fatigued force.
We have lost, on average, two military personnel per day since
the fighting began March 20, 2003. This occupation could last, by
conservative estimates 4-10 more years.
883 troops have given their lives since George W. Bush announced
an end to "combat operations" on May 1, 2003.
Our President taunted the enemy on July 2, 2003, daring them to
"Bring them on." 795 of our bravest soldiers have lost their lives
since that bold challenge.
The world is safer, we were told on December 13, 2003, after Saddam
Hussein was captured. It was not safer for the 588 U. S. service
members killed since then.
We were told that there was an imminent threat. That we were in
peril. Saddam Hussein, we were warned, was a madman who possessed
the ability and intent to wreak havoc and death upon the United
States. He also had the motive and will to do it. A mushroom cloud
was the smoking gun that awaited us if we did not act. So we did.
We placed our faith in our government and our leaders to protect
us from the WMDs that were perched precariously in a foreign country,
waiting to be given away by its leader to shadowy enemies who wished
We are told that the President does not declare war lightly. It
is the most serious and deadly decision he is faced with. It is
a last resort. George W. Bush did not want to go to war, he had
to. The overwhelming evidence forced his hand. So he sent soldiers
like Sgt. Ryan Campbell, 25, who was killed on April 29th of this
Sgt. Campbell wrote his sister shortly before his death:
"We had all been led to believe that Iraq posed a serious
threat to America as well as its surrounding nations. We invaded
expecting to find weapons of mass destruction and a much more
prepared and well-trained Republican Guard waiting for us. It
is now a year later, and alas, no weapons of mass destruction
or any other real threat, for that matter."
"Just do me one big favor, ok? Don't vote for Bush. No. Just
don't do it. I would not be happy with you."
For Sgt. Campbell's sister Brooke, there is a light shining down
on her. There is a light from each of the 1000 dead that lives on
and radiates the love and life sacrificed. Individually, I hope
they cast a warm peaceful glow on those they left behind. Combined
they cast 1000 harsh awful spotlights on our President and his needless
What is 1000? There are 1000 words in this piece.