I was unable to watch the Hood memorial ceremony from over here in Iraq but I caught a bit of it on TV.

I’ve got to say, having sat through multiple memorials over here, watching the TV for the one at Hood felt a little off. It was so strange seeing the field that I run PT on every morning filled with soldiers, the American flag draped over the entrance of the III Corps Headquarters.

The first memorial I ever went to was for a battalion commander we lost here in combat. It was a horrible shock and a catastrophic event. The CAC, where we conduct all ceremonies here on the FOB, was packed. After all, Lieutenant Colonels don’t usually make the casualty roster. So when my battalion lost a private and the CAC wasn’t nearly as full, it was kind of an eye opener.

I appreciate that the president went and offered his respects at the ceremony. But I wonder, did he ask the family members if they wanted him there? And I’m truly just wondering that. I thought he made a thoughtful decision earlier this year when he left the decision of photographs being taken at Dover up to the families. But I really wonder if anyone asked these families. They are as much a casualty of this war as anyone who died over here this year.

On the other hand, I recognize that the nation needs to mourn with us. That there is a kinship and a support for our soldiers even when we might close ranks and only stand with those who serve with us. Those who know what it feels like to stand on a tarmac and salute a flag draped coffin. That is an experience very few Americans know or understand and the reaction is to keep it to ourselves.

When we put on the uniform, we choose to become symbols of our nation. We give up our rights as individuals and become Soldier. That does not mean our deaths should be impersonal or turned into a symbol. Because each one of those Soldiers being mourned today was a brother or a sister, a son or a daughter, a wife or a husband.

So I’m conflicted. My gut says this is ours but my head says we need to show the world that we’re better than what that bastard tried to make us out to be.

My heart and prayers go out to the families of the victims and to the victims still recovering. Get well, get strong, we still need you.

The person, not the symbol.