Why is it that we refer to the day the Iraq war started as an anniversary? I was a soldier deployed to Iraq with the 42nd ID of the New York Army National Guard during the “second anniversary” of the war’s start. Oddly enough it did not at all remind me of the only other anniversary I have a recollection of having partaken in, my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary.

In Iraq there were no bands playing or people dancing. In Iraq the elderly did not reverently refer to this day as reliving the happiest day of their lives. In Iraq we did not have funny hats and noisemakers. We had Kevlar helmets and M16s when I was in Iraq. The only dancing to be done while I was stationed at FOB Speicher in Tikrit Iraq was to the pops of machine gun fire and the bangs of mortar rounds exploding all hours of the day and night.

There were never crowds of people applauding those entwined in their celebration, only long faces unloading the dead and wounded from just under the still roaring propellers of a black hawk helicopter. I would see them many times as I walked across base and while it did seem almost musical to watch their boots hit the hot Iraqi sand timed perfectly with the woop-woop-wooping of those deadly blades it was hardly the same as watching that old Irish couple gliding across the floor as though dancing were all they had done for 50 years.

Why do we choose to use such a celebratory word for a day that began a horribly violent campaign? With more than 3,200 American and 650,000 Iraqi dead it would not seem a day on scale with wedding anniversaries and parties. We should be grieving and mourning these losses not celebrating an anniversary as though each year we get a small VI-day prize including a life size picture of a sailor kissing a young woman on the streets of New York City.

March 19th should be another day that lives in infamy to the people of the world. Especially we, as Americans, should spend it in mourning for those who should be our futures best and brightest but will instead be those who have been carried home on cargo planes, draped in old glory and far from the flashing lights of cameras which in wars past would have greeted the dead and informed the living.

I would ask that on this March the 19th we not try and pretend to celebrate an anniversary but honor the dead, recognize the living and see that what we have here is the start of the fifth year of this war.

I ask that we take a few minutes to see how many dead are on the first four panels of the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC and compare it to how many would be on the first four panels of an Iraq war wall. I ask that we appreciate this as the start of our fifth panel and truly know that there could easily be another, much longer black implacable wall of death just off our national mall.

Geoffrey Millard spent more than 8 years in the New York Army National Guard to include 13 months in Operation Iraq Freedom (OIF). His OIF time was mostly spent at FOB Speicher in Tikrit Iraq. Geoff is now the DC Chapter president of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a writer for Foreign Policy In Focus.

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